Predators 5, Blackhawks 3
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP)—Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne figured he had nothing to lose in his NHL debut.
It worked out even better as Rinne made 35 saves in Nashville’s 5-3 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday night.
“They told me at the morning skate that I was going to start,” said Rinne, recalled Wednesday from Milwaukee of the AHL. “After they told me, it was a pretty normal game day for me. I was so excited. When they drop the puck you don’t have time to think about anything. If you do, then you are going to get beat.”
Rinne is the fourth goaltender used by the Predators this season. He was recalled after Nashville backup Chris Mason sustained a groin injury during warmups Tuesday night at Florida. Brian Finley, also recalled from Milwaukee, lost 7-3 that night, prompting the decision to start Rinne.
“Brian is going to be OK,” Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. “He was the best goaltender in the AHL last month. He had a bad experience. He will regroup. We have confidence in that.”
The Predators also have confidence in Rinne who will probably be in goal Saturday night against Columbus if Mason is not ready.
The Blackhawks tested Rinne early as Mark Bell scored a short-handed goal on a wrist shot from low in the slot that went in at 2:29 of the first period.
“The first shot Rinne gets in the NHL is ripped right by him,” Trotz said. “How a player responds to that tells you a lot about a player. And he responded very well.”
Martin Erat put Nashville ahead 2-1 at 10:32 of the period. Yanic Perreault gave the Predators a two-goal lead 6:17 later, pushing the puck into an empty net with Anderson out of position after taking a pass from Steve Sullivan.
Nashville’s Vernon Fiddler skated through the slot on a short breakaway and put the puck high above Anderson’s left shoulder at 1:48 to make it 4-1.
“With the two new goalies, we have to give them support,” Fiddler said. “It is an adjustment to come to Nashville. We didn’t give Finley a lot of help. We played a little better in front of Pekka and he really stood in there.”
Less than a minute later, Tyler Arnason cut the deficit to two goals. Anton Babchuk followed with his first goal of the season, to make it 4-3. But Sullivan restored Nashville’s two-goal lead with his 13th goal, a short-handed tally on a breakaway.
“It’s hard to hold onto a lead in the NHL unless you can lock things down and get a team out of synch,” Trotz said.
The Blackhawks were unable to score on nine power-play opportunities. The Predators scored on 1-of-9.
“When we did generate chances they made a couple of good saves,” Chicago coach Trent Yawney said. “We definitely have to be better. It has to come from within. We have to be smarter with the puck.”
RW Jordin Tootoo was back in a Nashville uniform for the first time since the season opener, replacing Jeremy Stevenson who is out for a month with a knee injury. Tootoo was recalled earlier in the day from Milwaukee. Pavel Vorobiev’s assist on Bell’s goal gave him four points (2 goals, 2 assists) in three games.