Saturday, March 24, 2012
During his past three starts before Saturday night's game against the Winnipeg Jets, Pekka Rinne had struggled. In those three games, Rinne had allowed 12 goals on a combined 57 shots. On Saturday night against the Jets, Rinne answered the bell with a stellar bounce-back effort.
Rinne stopped 24 shots for the Nashville Predators en route to a 3-1 victory over Winnipeg. The Jets did not pepper Rinne with a lot of high quality chances, but Rinne was able to make key saves at key times when called upon.
Nashville controlled the play early in the first period. The Predators had several opportunities to score, but Ondrej Pavelec came up big for the Jets. He was able to make big saves on quality shots to keep Winnipeg afloat.
Winnipeg was almost able to score the first goal of the game at 12:26 of the opening frame. Rinne was able to make the initial pad save on Andrew Ladd, but left the net wide open for Bryan Little in what would have been an easy goal if it weren't for the stellar block by Kevin Klein. Little released the puck from the slot, and Klein was able to get his body in front of it in the crease to make the save.
"It was just a scramble play. They just threw the puck at the net, and it went straight to the back-door guy. I was able to make the first save and then (Klein) bailed me out at the goal line and made a huge save," Rinne said.
Over the last few games, the Predators have given up the momentum in the first period. If Winnipeg scores on that play, the entire out look of the game may have changed. However, Rinne and Klein were able to come up big for the Predators.
"We've given up first goals the last few games. It's never easy to play like that. That was a really big moment," Rinne said.
In the second period, Nashville was finally able to take the lead after having several prime scoring opportunities. Alexander Radulov made a nifty pass to Matt Halischuk to send him breaking into the zone with no defenders near him. Halischuk cranked a slapshot past Pavelec to give the Predators a 1-0 lead.
Gabriel Bourque put the Predators up by two goals at 10:01 of the second period. Nick Spaling fired a turn-around shot on goal from the point, and Bourque was able to connect with the loose puck on the rebound to slide it past Pavelec.
Winnipeg would pull within one of Nashville at 12:53 of the third period when Tim Stapleton converted on a one-timer from right in front of Rinne. However, Rinne and the Predators would shut the door after that. Shea Weber added an empty-net power play goal with 9.9 seconds remaining to ice the game away for the Predators. Rinne, and Nashville's defensive effort, were much better on Saturday night than they had been in the previous two games, which propelled them to the 3-1 victory.
"It was a better game. Obviously, it's frustrating when you give up a lot of goals in those game. Big rebound and just a solid game," Rinne said.
Nashville will travel to Chicago to take on the Central Division rival Blackhawks on Sunday night. Chicago is just two points behind Nashville in the Western Conference standings.
Hockey Night in Nashville's 3 Stars of the game:
1. Pekka Rinne(NSH)
2. Gabriel Bourque(NSH)
3. Alexander Radulov(NSH)
Official 3 Stars:
1. Pekka Rinne(NSH)
2. Alexander Radulov(NSH)
3. Gabriel Bourque(NSH)
(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)