The Predators have come closest to dominating for the entirety of a game in the Final, shutting down the Pens for much of Game 1 and sticking right with Pittsburgh until early in the third period in Game 2.
The quick goal surge was enough for Nashville coach Peter Laviolette to send in backup goalie Juuse Saros in to replace Rinne, but the Penguins wouldn't have minded scoring more. The coach did not commit to starting him when the series resumes this weekend, though he praised his goaltender throughout the postgame news conference.
"I've been here for six years now, and [Rinne] has been our best player every year, night in and night out", Nashville defenseman Ryan Ellis said.
"Our focus is Game 3 and going home to a crowd that's going to be electric", Predators' captain Mike Fisher said. "So we're going back home". The goalie who had been so dominant in the playoffs has now given up eight goals on 36 shots and has a.777 save percentage in the Stanley Cup final.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are in control of the Stanley Cup Final but are aware of the challenge that awaits when the series shifts to Nashville where the Predators have been near ideal during the National Hockey League playoffs. Pittsburgh also did it in 2009, losing both games on the road against Detroit. Rinne got the Preds here.
"When we score one, we don't stop", Malkin said. The Penguins beat Rinne four times on just 11 shots in Game 1 and scored three goals on 25 shots Wednesday for a 2-0 series lead. But he has never started and won a game against the Penguins, and he has looked decidedly shaky, posting a.777 save percentage, in the first two games of the biggest series of his life.
There went Pekka Rinne, headed down the visiting tunnel and into the dark, leaving his stick on the carpet and a two-game series deficit on the ice. I think his confidence is there.
It hasn't been easy against Pittsburgh. With No. 1 defenceman Kris Letang gone midway through the season, they finished 14th in shots for and against at five-on-five; going into Game 2 Wednesday night, Pittsburgh had the second-lowest percentage of five-on-five shot attempts of any team in the playoffs at 46.9 per cent, which in the regular season would make them the 29th-ranked team in hockey, and then it got worse. "You just have to bury these two games and find a way to have some success".
NBC Sports released ratings information Thursday afternoon for Wednesday's Game 2 in Pittsburgh (the Predators lost 4-1) and - not surprisingly - Pittsburgh and Nashville had the most viewers of all USA markets with local shares of 31.1 and 16.3, respectively. "All three goals in the third period were odd-man rushes". The Predators bounced back from that and eventually tied it in the third period before Rinne allowed the game-winner.
Plain and simple, Wednesday was not a good night for the Nashville Predators.
With less than four minutes remaining in the first, Game 1 hero Guentzel tied things up when he followed up a Conor Sheary rebound and snuck a backhand through Rinne's equipment. If this is rope-a-dope they are the knockout power, and it was Crosby's faceoff win that started the second goal, Kessel who set up the second, Malkin who scored the third.
The 22-year-old Guentzel finished with two goals to give him an NHL-high 12 during the playoffs, the second-most by a rookie in postseason history. But the difference in the series has been goaltending and Rinne, specifically, getting outplayed by Murray.
"Everything was there that we liked but the result", Ellis said. "It's not his fault, by any means".