If a goaltender is going to falter, it might as well be Game 1. Rinne has plenty of time to recover and his teammates and hockey experts were consistent in believing he will do so based on his pedigree and performance in the playoffs so far.
Game 2 is at PPG Paints Arena on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVA Sports).
“Since Day 1 that I’ve been here, [Pekka] has been our best player night in, night out,” Predators defenseman Ryan Ellis said. “He’s one of the best, if not the best, goalie in the League. Especially my first couple years, he was the difference maker all the time.
“He’s such a great guy off the ice. He’s a real leader in our room. I expect him to bounce back. He’s a terrific goalie. He’s been our MVP all year.”
Mike Liut of the St. Louis Blues had a .650 SV% against the New York Rangers in Game 6 of the Quarterfinals on April 24, 1981.
Liut did not have a chance to redeem himself after allowing seven goals.
The series was over.
Goaltender Ray Emery had a .667 SV% for the Ottawa Senators in Game 5 of the Cup Final against the Anaheim Ducks in 2007.
Like Liut, there was no chance for a playoff redemption story for Emery because the series was over, the Ducks won the Cup and the Senators moved on to the handshake line.
Despite his performance in Game 1, Rinne is 12-5 with a 1.83 goals-against average and .934 save percentage this postseason.
“I think Pekka is a competitor,” Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. “He’s ready to go. He was ready to go last game. He’ll be ready next game as well.”
It was Rinne’s worst save percentage in a game since Oct. 3, 2013, when he was pulled against the St. Louis Blues at 9:45 of the first period after allowing three goals on six shots. Rinne started the next game and lost 3-1 to the Colorado Avalanche.
But 2013 might as well be another era when it comes to Rinne and the Predators.
“I think he’s going to bounce back, no problem whatsoever,” Hockey Night in Canada analyst and former NHL goaltender Kelly Hrudey said.
“I’m a big fan of his, not only the way he plays. Like all guys his age, some of the younger guys are better technically like [Pittsburgh goaltender] Matt Murray and so on, but I like the way he competes.
“I find there’s a time and place for aggressive goaltending, so I really like it. Secondly, I really like Rinne as a person.”
The quirky nature of Game 1 didn’t help, either. Rinne didn’t face a shot for 37:00, and the Penguins ended the shot drought with forward Jake Guentzel‘s game-winning goal with 3:17 left in the third period.
Rinne told reporters after the game Monday that it was his job to make the save and that he was disappointed he couldn’t help the team.
The Predators did not make Rinne available to the media on Tuesday.
“To be honest, not a lot you can do on the goals,” Predators forward Filip Forsberg said. “A couple tough bounces, stuff like that.
“If you look at the stats, it obviously doesn’t look good in one game. If you look in the playoffs, he’s been the best player in the playoffs. Looking back, since I came here a couple years ago, he’s been the best player in almost all of the games played.
“We have all the belief in [Pekka] we can ever have. I’m looking forward to seeing him play next game.”
Like Rinne, Hrudey spent a long time in the NHL before playing in the Stanley Cup Final for the first time, in 1993 with the Los Angeles Kings. The Montreal Canadiens defeated the Kings in five games, including three in overtime.
The wide-open era of his day, of course, was almost like pond hockey compared to the current game. Hrudey laughed when asked if he ever went 30-something minutes — at any level — without facing a shot.
“No, not even close,” he said. “That would be horrible. That would be my worst experience.
“Not in my time with the L.A. Kings. I might have stopped 37 shots in a minute.”