PITTSBURGH — A week ago, the Nashville Predators headed home down 2-0 to the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. Pekka Rinne’s game seemed to be in tatters and the Penguins fan base was musing whether it preferred a clean sweep or just a split of the two games in Nashville so the defending champions could raise the Cup on home ice.

So, about that.

The vibe for Game 5 on Thursday night figures to be more anxious than anticipatory after the Predators evened the series at 2-2 with a pair of vintage performances on home ice that sent a very clear message that the first-timers are a clear threat to become first-time winners.

Through four games, Nashville has more goals, more shots on goal and a bit more swagger than Pittsburgh. What began as a two-month slog to the Cup is now a three-game dash, one that appears to be a coin flip. The Penguins have the experience. The Predators have the momentum. Both are fighting fatigue with adrenaline.

“I know people talk about how we’re tired, but believe me, they’re tired too,” Pittsburgh forward Evgeni Malkin said.

Pittsburgh is just 7-7 over its last 14 games and has been limited to just one goal in six of its past 11 — including the two losses in Nashville. The Predators are 5-5 when forced to wear the road whites, including a Game 5 victory against Anaheim in the West finals.

“I think both teams have gotten better throughout the series and that’s expected,” Predators forward James Neal said.