The first two games of the series weren’t Pekka Rinne’s fault. He still wasn’t at his best, though, as he gave up nine goals in Phoenix. He admitted he needed to improve prior to last night’s Game Three.
“Two games, nine goals against – it’s rough,” Rinne said yesterday morning.
The nine goals were the most he had allowed in a two-game span since last spring’s first-round series against Anaheim.
Rinne rebounded last night with a stellar performance, recording 32 saves in a 2-0 shutout victory to bring the Coyotes’ series lead to 2-1. It was Rinne’s first career shutout in the playoffs.
“It feels good, obviously. It’s always tough after the first few games and you give up a lot of goals and lose two games in a row,” he said. “You put a lot of pressure on yourself and it feels good to win this one and play a solid game. It makes the series totally different now.”
The Vezina Trophy finalist was especially key during a 5-on-3 disadvantage in the later stages of the third period. Rinne closed the door with some clutch saves, including a toe save from his stomach.
“Pekka was tracking the puck really well. He made a big save and got the toe up on that one [save],” head coach Barry Trotz said. “He was sharp tonight.”
Rinne was on his A-game all night, but he wasn’t forced to make those big-time saves until that penalty kill late in the game. He certainly benefitted from a defensive effort that was a 180-degree difference from the first two games in Phoenix.
“I thought we had a much better effort, much better defensively and in all areas of the game,” Mike Fisher said after the game. “We came to compete and battle and it’s a huge win for us.”
Fisher said of Rinne, “He played unbelievable. He made some huge saves, especially late in the game. He kept us right in it.”
This and That:
- This is the type of effort from the Predators that we have grown accustomed to seeing on a near-nightly basis this season. They didn’t allow the Coyotes many chances at all until the 5-on-3 late in the game, which was a defining moment. As detailed above, Rinne came up big in that situation. Overall, the effort was a big improvement compared to Games One and Two. It should give the Predators confidence moving forward.
- The defense pairings needed to be changed after Sunday’s game, and Trotz switched back to the pairings that worked so well late in the year when the blue-line was healthy. Hal Gill was back with Roman Josi, while Kevin Klein was paired with Francis Bouillon. The moves were for the better, as the defense was much improved all around.
- Someone I voted for on my Three Stars ballot that was an omission was Martin Erat. He played one of his better games in recent memory. He was hard on the puck all over the ice all night long, specifically on Fisher’s first period goal with a strong forecheck, earning an assist on the play. Erat was also really strong on a shorthanded shift in the first period, forcing the Coyotes to go 200 feet a couple times with his forecheck.
- Trotz liked Jordin Tootoo’s game last night: “That’s the Jordin Tootoo that was maybe missing a little bit. He was really good. He was on the puck hard, he was detailed in the defensive zone, detailed all over the ice. That’s the way I expect him to play.”
It’s easy to agree with Trotz. Tootoo definitely made his impact felt in the 10:11 of ice-time he saw in his second game this postseason. He recorded five hits and brought a lot of energy. It’s going to be hard not to put him back in the lineup on Friday.
- Paul Gaustad, Tootoo’s linemate, also had a solid game. Gaustad won 15 of the 22 faceoffs he took (68%), doled out four hits and racked up three blocked shots. He’s been as advertised ever since he entered the Preds lineup at the trade deadline.
- One negative out of this game was the power play. It was tough for the Preds to get much of anything going on their five opportunities despite getting eight shots on net with the man advantage. Phoenix’s penalty kill did a solid job of limiting the amount of chances and zone time the Preds had on the power play. The Preds’ power play is now 0-for-20 in four playoff games on home ice. The unit was the NHL’s best at home in the regular season.
- However, the Preds’ penalty kill continues to come up large. They have now killed off eight straight Coyotes power plays since Radim Vrbata scored with the man advantage early in Game One.
- Nashville’s Matt Halischuk and Phoenix’s Boyd Gordon both left the game early, only to return in the same period in which they suffered an apparent injury. Halischuk took a hard spill into the boards, while Gordon bravely blocked a Shea Weber slap shot.
- This was the second shutout for the Predators in the franchise’s playoff history. The first one came in 2004 when Tomas Vokoun closed the door on a 3-0 win in Game Four against Detroit.
- Now the question becomes what Trotz will do in Game Four when it comes to the lineup. With the suspensions of Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn ending, does he change anything after a solid all-around team effort in Game Three? Trotz said yesterday morning that he would probably stick with the same lineup Friday if they won last night. They won, so now it’ll be interesting to see if Trotz stays true to his word.
- Multiple catfish hit the ice throughout the game last night. The unofficial count was four. Here is video of a Preds ice girl picking one up with her bare hands.
Smashville 24/7 3 stars of the night:
1. Pekka Rinne (32 saves, shutout)
2. Mike Fisher (1 goal)
3. Martin Erat (1 assist)
Recaps around the blogosphere:
|Preds On The Glass||Inside Smashville||Section 303|
|Puck Scene||Hockey Night in Nashville||On The Forecheck|