Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Penguins Spoil Rinne's Return With a 3-1 Win Over the Predators

The Nashville Predators welcomed back goaltender Pekka Rinne, who had missed 51 games with a hip infection, as they faced the Pittsburgh Penguins at Bridgestone Arena.

Unfortunately for Rinne and the Predators, the Penguins spoiled his return, capturing a 3-1 victory.

One had to wonder if Rinne would show some rust and be ready for top flight competition, and he quickly proved that he was, making some outstanding saves to keep the Penguins off the board in the first period. Rinne's right pad save on Chris Kunitz, who was driving to the net, was a highlight reel effort.

The Penguins got on the board first at 27 seconds of the second period as Matt Niskanen squeezed a shot between Rinne and the post.

The Predators answered just 12 seconds later as Patric Hornqvist cleaned up a rebound by Marc-Andre Fleury at the top of the crease to tie the game at 1.

Niskanen got his second goal of the game on the power play at 7:29 of the third period as he blasted a slap shot through traffic past Rinne.

Christ Kunitz doused any Predator hopes of getting back into the game as he fired a shot from the slot that beat Rinne at 17:05 of the third period.

Some observations:

  • Rinne was very good in his return. Some of his saves were amazing and he showed that early on that he was ready for the speed of the game. The Penguins had some very good chances throughout the game and Rinne made some athletic saves and showed good movement.

  • The talent difference between the Penguins and the Predators is huge. Often, the Predators could do little more than dump the puck out of the zone. The Predators had to expend massive amounts of effort to get the puck into the offensive zone and create some chances. When they did, they once again had trouble finishing.

  • That said, the overall defensive effort, especially in limiting Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby from getting prime scoring chances was generally good. Crosby is a star, and the efforts focused on taking away his scoring chances allowed him to set up other teammates as he picked up three assists tonight.

  • David Legwand picked up two penalties and one led to Niskanen's power play goal. Legwand has not been productive and his lack of effort and creativity kills any offensive flow from his line. Unfortunately, it looks like the team is stuck with him as he is untradeable.

  • Hornqvist has 6 points (2G-4A) in his last 8 games.

  • Nick Spaling returned to the line up after missing 4 games with an injury.

  • Shea Weber picked up a 10 minute misconduct after the Kunitz goal late in the third period.

  • Roman Josi led all Predators with 26:37 TOI.

  • Sydney Crosby NEVER gets tossed from the faced off circle, even if his line mates jump early. This happened on three occasions tonight and Crosby was allowed to remain to take the face off. He won 12 of 22 face offs.

  • The Predators scored the first goal of the game as the puck caromed off the shin pad of Paul Gaustad. After a lengthy review, the goal was overturned because it was deemed that Gaustad made a distinct kicking motion. The longer the review took, one knew that would be the call. That call was questionable at best.
The road doesn't get any easier for the Predators as they host the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night.

They have to continue to bring a solid effort and hope they can get some pucks in the net.

My three stars:

1. Matt Niskanen

2. Sydney Crosby

3. Patric Hornqvist

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