PITTSBURGH (AP) — Pekka Rinne’s difficulties against the Penguins, particularly in Pittsburgh, have been well documented.
So, it felt good for the Nashville Predators’ star goaltender to put those questions to rest — at least for one night.
Rinne stopped 42 shots to lead the Predators to a 3-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday night.
“It hasn’t been an easy building for me, personally,” Rinne said, “and for us as a team, either.”
It was the second game in eight days between the teams and a rematch of the 2017 Stanley Cup Final, won by Pittsburgh in six games.
Rinne won for the first time in Pittsburgh and defeated the Penguins for just the second time in 10 career regular-season starts. In six previous career starts in Pittsburgh, including the playoffs, Rinne was 0-6-0 with a 5.14 goals-against average and a .822 save percentage. He allowed three goals or more in every other appearance in Pittsburgh.
“Those kinds of things, you kind of recognize them and it’s in the back of your head, but at the same time, it’s always a great challenge and I love to come here and play,” Rinne said.
Viktor Arvidsson’s 32nd goal of the season – a power-play goal – set a career high and also was the 100th of his NHL career. Craig Smith and P.K. Subban also scored for the Predators, who moved into a first-place tie in the Central Division. Nashville, which clinched its fifth straight playoff berth Monday, has won five of seven after losing four of its previous six.
“It’s a good game for us to have at this point in the season,” Rinne said. “There’s only a few games left before the playoffs. Every team is trying to fine-tune their game before the playoffs and we’re trying to do the same.”
Rinne was 63 seconds from his fifth shutout of the season when Nick Bjugstad scored for Pittsburgh.
Matt Murray made 23 saves for the Penguins, whose three-game winning streak ended. Pittsburgh, which had a chance to tie the New York Islanders for second in the Metropolitan Division, came in having won 10 of 15 games and earned points in 14 of 16.
“I thought we had some really good chances in the first period,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “You can’t always control whether it goes in the net. Their goalie was good, you have to give him credit, but I thought our team battled hard.”
Rinne allowed 12 goals and made just 34 saves during three 2017 Stanley Cup Final games in Pittsburgh. He was strong on Friday, stopping 22 first-period shots. Rinne has eight wins and one shutout in his last 13 starts total. The 2018 Vezina Trophy winner recorded his 27th win of the season.
Pittsburgh outshot Nashville 22-11 in the first period, but the Predators held a 1-0 lead through 20 minutes thanks to Rinne. It was the fourth time this season the Penguins recorded 20 or more shots in a period.
Smith scored the lone goal of the period for Nashville when he deflected Matt Irwin’s point shot behind Murray.
“They were shooting a lot of pucks in the first period,” Rinne said. “They shot every chance they had, and obviously that helps you get going, seeing the puck and starting to feel it. It just continued like that all night. I thought we played strong periods in the second and third.”
Arvidsson scored a power-play goal from inside the top of the left circle at 17:36 of the second period to put Nashville in front by two goals. Ryan Johansen had an assist on the goal to become the second player in team history to record a 50-assist season.
Rinne took care of the rest for the Predators.
“He can turn a game around with one save,” Arvidsson said. “Today, he made a bunch of saves and he was unbelievable.”
NOTES: Nashville won at Pittsburgh for the first time since Feb. 1, 2015. … D Olli Maatta returned to the lineup for Pittsburgh after missing 21 games with an upper-body injury. … F Evgeni Malkin (upper body), D Kris Letang (upper body) and D Chad Ruhwedel skated on Friday morning, but did not play against Nashville. … Nashville recalled G Troy Grosenick on an emergency basis from Milwaukee of the American Hockey League because of an illness to G Juuse Saros. … Smith joined Filip Forsberg as the only players in Predators history to record five 20-goal seasons. … Pittsburgh’s Jake Guentzel played in his 200th NHL game.
Predators: Host Columbus on Saturday.
Penguins: Welcome Carolina on Sunday.
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