While Craig Leipold is the official owner of the Minnesota Wild franchise, when his team is in Nashville, it pretty much belongs to Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne.
It is safe to say that the former Predators owner isn’t all that happy to share the team with Rinne either.
With the Predators defeating the Wild 2-1 in a shootout Wednesday night, Rinne improved his record over Minnesota in games played in Music City to a still perfect 5-0-0.
Three of Rinne’s previous four Bridgestone Arena victories over the Wild were shutouts, as evidenced by his gaudy .250 Goals Against Average and .989 Save Percentage coming into Wednesday.
After Jordin Tootoo scored the game’s first goal at the seven-minute mark of the third period, it looked that Rinne was well on his way to another Wild whitewash, but Dany Heatley had other ideas.
From behind Rinne’s cage, Nate Prosser found Heatley on the left side, where he quickly deposited the puck into the Nashville net with a nifty wraparound that just deflected in off of the skate attached to the outstretched left leg of Rinne.
The game stayed tied 1-1 through the end of regulation, so the fifth consecutive sellout crowd in Nashville received some free hockey in the form of overtime.
As he was all night, Rinne was sharp in the extra session as well, if not more so. Just 63 seconds into overtime, former Predator defenseman Marek Zidlicky came down from the right side and had a glorious scoring chance, but Rinne was able to move right to left in his crease to keep the enigmatic blueliner off of the board with a left pad save and kept the Nashville hopes of ending their two-game slide alive.
Rinne turned aside 34 of Minnesota’s shots in regulation and overtime. The Predators were not able to solve Rinne’s counterpart in the Minnesota crease Josh Harding in overtime either, so the game advanced to a shootout.
“Peks has been really good,” Predators head coach Barry Trotz said. “In our building, they defend really well. You have to forecheck well. At home, that has been a staple over the years and getting some timely goaltending.”
In the tiebreaker, Rinne had to make a save on just one of the Wild’s three shooters. Matt Cullen went first for Minnesota, but he lost control of the puck while stickhandling as he approached Rinne.
Colin Wilson beat Harding with an impressive backhander top shelf to give Nashville a 1-0 advantage in the shootout. The forehand, backhand, to top shelf moved looked somewhat similar to former Predator Vernon Fiddler’s go-to shootout move.
Mikko Koivu was next, and his wrister deflected off of the numbers just above Rinne’s blocker. After Craig Smith missed an opportunity to ice the game for Nashville, Pierre-Marc Bouchard was Minnesota’s last hope.
Bouchard caught Rinne off-guard with a spin-o-rama move just outside the crease, but he lost the puck and did not exactly stick the landing on his single-toe loop as the puck landed harmlessly in the right corner.
“He’s a skilled player that comes with the speed and just spins around,” Rinne said. “It was tough. Luckily he lost the puck, it probably would have been a goal otherwise.”
Rinne’s career record against the Wild improved to 7-3-1.