The first night of the Stanley Cup Playoffs hadn’t yet concluded when Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne made an acrobatic stop that will surely be a nominee for the top save of the postseason when it’s all said and done.
With the Predators leading 2-1 at the beginning of the third period, Red Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg had the puck on his stick with essentially the entire net open. Zetterberg’s wrist shot, however, was stoned by a sprawling Rinne. It was the second time in less than two weeks that Rinne robbed Zetterberg of a goal.
Rinne’s stop on Zetterberg kept the Red Wings from tying the game and was a big moment in the Predators’ 3-2 Game One victory.
“[It was] just desperation,” Rinne said of his big save after the win. “They made kind of a criss-cross kind of pass. First to [Pavel] Datsyuk and [he] found Zetterberg and I was able to reach my hand.
“Big save at the time, but got a little lucky too. I knew half the net was open. I just needed to dive there and use my soccer goalie skills.”
Before forward Gabriel Bourque scored to give the Predators a 3-1 lead midway through the third, Rinne made other big plays to hold onto the one-goal lead. There were a few tense moments late in the game, as there always are against Detroit. Tomas Holmstrom scored with 3:07 remaining in the third to bring the Red Wings back within one goal.
“Until the last whistle it was pretty tight,” said Rinne. “They have that poise as a team that when they get it going, it’s hard to stop them. We did a good job of managing and limiting their opportunities. That was a key thing at the end there.”
Rinne, who had a stem machine hooked up to his legs after the game, definitely earned his paycheck tonight. He made 35 saves in the victory, 30 of which came in the final two periods when the Predators were out-shot 32-13.
“Pekka – he was incredible,” head coach Barry Trotz said. “[Detroit was] trying to crash the net, doing everything they could and throwing it in from everywhere and trying to push him into the net. He stood his ground, fought through screens to find those pucks. As Peks always is, he was really good.”
The Predators squandered six power play opportunities and played on their heels a bit for the final two periods, but it was important to start the series on a good note.
“In the second 30 minutes I didn’t think we managed the game as well as we needed to – we recognize that,” Trotz said. “We know the next game’s going to be a lot harder than this one.”
Holding a 1-0 series lead, the Predators will host Detroit in Game Two on Friday night.