Rinne goes back to old equipment, old self in Predators' win (and more from the locker room)

After three straight games of giving up three or more goals, fans were starting to wonder whether Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne was starting to lose his mojo.

But tonight, Rinne silenced those doubters.

The Nashville netminder made 34 saves on 35 shot attempts and came through when it mattered most in the win.

"[Rinne] was really good," head coach Barry Trotz said after the game. "He shut them down."

So what was the reason for Rinne's stellar performance tonight?

The more superstitious people would attribute it to his equipment. Rinne practiced yesterday in his old mask and pad design from last year, and was sporting the same gear when he emerged from the tunnel for warmups.

Last year, Rinne put together a historic season and finished as the runner-up for the Vezina trophy - an award given out at the end of the season to the league's best goalie.

But after the game, Rinne denied that he made the equipment switch to try to bring back old vibes.

"The other one is getting a little smelly and stuff," Rinne said. "I guess it's just time to wear a new one. But absolutely, it feels comfortable. I had a good last year having the same design, but I'm not too superstitious, so it's not a big deal.

"Obviously it's easy to make that connection there, but nothing really. I wanted to keep that same design, and I've had that same mask since the beginning of the season, I've just been using the other one."

Whatever the reason, the Finland native put in a classic Pekka Rinne performance tonight, carrying the Predators to a victory. The Predators were outshot 35-25 on the night but were able to hold on for the shootout victory.

It would even be hard to say that the lone Wild goal was Rinne's fault. He made a couple of sprawling saves on an initial flurry of shots and ended up on his stomach. Danny Heatley brought the puck around to the other side of the net, and while Rinne was able to get his skate back across to the other post, Heatley banged home the chance for the Wild's only goal.

"They really tried to put a lot of traffic on him and he battle through that," Trotz said. "Unfortunately, they got a wrap around goal and there was nothing he could do. He made two or three saves in that sequence, and I wasn't expecting him to make the fourth one at that time. We've just got to seal that off."

Rinne survived a barrage of chances in the overtime period, making four more saves to carry the team to a shootout win.

"I always kind of trust myself to make the save [in the shootout]," Rinne said. "We've been doing a really good job especially at home in shootouts going like that."

"He has to play well every night, tonight was no different," defenseman Ryan Suter said. "He did his job."

Around the locker room

  • Trotz on Gabriel Bourque's NHL debut: "That's bad coaching by me [to not give him more ice time]. He played really well. I thought he was really hard on the puck. I can guarantee you this: If he plays like that, which I expected him to, if he does that night in and night out I know he's gonna play a lot more."
  • Trotz on the key Nashville's success against Minnesota in Nashville: "Against Minnesota in this building? Pekka Rinne. Pekks has been really good."
  • I tried to catch up with Bourque after the game, but he had already left. He didn't stick around for very long.
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