Pekka Rinne gets first shutout in a year as Preds blank Blackhawks
CHICAGO — Pekka Rinne and the Nashville Predators have had a frustrating season.
On Sunday night, they were able to deal a dose of frustration to the Chicago Blackhawks.
Rinne made 29 saves for his first shutout in more than a year to lead Nashville to a 2-0 win over Chicago.
Mike Fisher and Gabriel Bourque scored for the Predators, who won their second straight and improved to 3-1 against the Blackhawks this season.
“You saw tonight exactly what Pekka Rinne can do for you,” Nashville coach Barry Trotz said.
When he’s healthy.
Rinne, a two-time Vezina Trophy finalist had surgery on his left hip in May 2013 and recovered in time to play in nine of the Predators’ first 10 games to start the season.
But an infection in the hip required him to undergo a second surgery and he missed 51 games.
Rinne was sharp in his 31st career shutout, his first since March 12, 2013, as Chicago dominated territorially in the first two periods and outshot Nashville 29-17 for the game.
“It feels good after tonight’s win,” Rinne said. “Against a top team like that, it’s going to get the best out of you and we showed that as team tonight.”
Rinne has started nine of 11 games since returning in a 3-1 loss to Pittsburgh on March 4. But in three games before Sunday, he allowed 13 goals while taking two losses and a no-decision.
“Obviously, I never thought it was going to be this kind of season,” Rinne said. “I put that behind me now and I’m focusing on these last games we have left … and at the same time having a good summer and being ready to the next season.”
The Predators are all but out of the playoff picture in the Western Conference.
On Sunday, Nashville forced the Blackhawks to shoot from the perimeter and limited second and third chances as the game went on.
“It started with us getting the shot from the outside that he can see and control,” defenseman Ryan Ellis said. “But he’s one of the best in the league. He came out of the net and played (the puck) well and overall was just unreal tonight.”
Chicago came out flying despite playing its second game without Patrick Kane, the team’s leading scorer when he was injured against St. Louis on Wednesday. The star forward is on injured reserve with a lower-body injury and could miss the rest of the regular season.
But once Nashville got a lead and as the game progressed, the Predators defense and Rinne took over.
“We had a good start, had a couple great looks at the net, missed the net, missed the opportunities there.” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. “They scored first and it was the same, exact same as what happened the other day.
“They get the lead, go into a checkfest, and they check well.”
Chicago fell six points behind Western Conference and Central Division leader St. Louis, which defeated Pittsburgh 1-0 earlier on Sunday.
The Blackhawks’ Corey Crawford made 15 saves.
Predators defenseman Seth Jones suffered concussion-like symptoms didn’t return for the second period. He’ll be evaluated when the team returns to Nashville.
Forward Patric Hornqvist, tied for second on the Predators with 38 points, missed the game and returned to Nashville to be with his wife following the birth of the couple’s first child.
The Blackhawks outshot the Predators 11-6 in the first and dominated much of the period, but Nashville led 1-0 after 20 minutes.
Fisher opened the scoring on a deflection with 1:22 remaining in the first when he slipped in unchecked from the left side of the net. Ellis shot through a screen from the right point, and Fisher jammed in front and tipped the puck past Crawford.
The Blackhawks came out strong in the second, but Rinne stopped several close-in chances and limited rebounds to keep the Predators ahead.
Bourque made it 2-0 with 2:25 left in the period on a rising shot from the left circle that sailed over Crawford’s right shoulder as he dropped to the ice.
In the third, Rinne came through when tested and managed the puck conservatively, often smothering it to eliminate Chicago rebounds and chances.
Rinne stopped Niklas Hjalmarsson’s screened shot from the point in the final minute, then sprawled to stop Jonathan Toews’ rebound attempt from the side of the net.
*Photo courtesy of Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images