Nashville Predators G Pekka Rinne blanks Chicago Blackhawks for upset win in Game 1

By Jeff Arnold, The Sports Xchange  |  April 14, 2017 at 10:01 AM
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CHICAGO -- The Nashville Predators never gave Pekka Rinne much breathing room to work with on Thursday.

So when the Predators found themselves with a golden opportunity to steal a victory on the road in Game 1 of their Western Conference playoff series against the Chicago Blackhawks, Rinne had very little room for error.

He never flinched.

Rinne made 29 saves in his second career playoff shutout and Viktor Arvidsson scored the game's lone goal in a 1-0 victory in the opening act of the best-of-seven series.

"It's still just the first win of the series," Rinne said. "Tonight, we scored one goal and it had to be a shutout if we wanted to win the game."

Game 2 is Saturday night at the United Center.

Rinne made 11 saves in the third period alone and preserved the victory in the final two minutes when the Blackhawks pulled Corey Crawford to gain an extra attacker.

Arvidsson tallied his goal at the 7:52 mark of the first period when he redirected a Filip Forsberg shot past Crawford, who finished with 19 saves for the Blackhawks.

The lone goal, as early as it came, proved to be all the offense Rinne needed.

"(Rinne) was great -- he made (one) incredible save after another so it was big," Arvidsson said. "He kept us in it."

The Blackhawks, who had an early shots-on-goal advantage, went 13:46 of the first period without a shot before defenseman Duncan Keith ended the drought from center ice in the closing seconds. The Predators limited Chicago's scoring chances -- especially in close -- and kept the Blackhawks' offense at bay throughout the night.

Chicago amped up its energy in the second period and registered 12 shots on goal, nearly getting the equalizer with several point-blank chances. The Western Conference's top team kept pressing into the third period, but Rinne preserved the one-goal lead in what was the first road playoff shutout in Predators history.

Now, the Blackhawks must regroup to attempt to salvage a game on Saturday before the series shifts back to Nashville.

"We've got to be better across the board," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "We need everybody going. Obviously starting a little late tonight didn't help, but we need more desperation around the net and that willingness to get there and fight through it and pay a price."

Arvidsson nearly extended Nashville's lead to two goals late in the third period on a breakaway chance. Arvidsson beat Crawford but his shot hit the crossbar, which kept the Blackhawks within striking distance.

But even with the extra attacker for the final two minutes, the Blackhawks couldn't find a way to draw even. Despite being down a game in the series, Chicago realizes there is still a long way to go.

"I mean playoff hockey, it's our first game of the playoffs this season," Blackhawks left winger Patrick Kane said. "You kind of get used to the intensity, how everything ramps up. Every shift is important. Not only for the young guys, but for a lot of us, it's important to kind of get used to playing that playoff-style hockey again and get back to doing the little things right."

And although the Predators gained an early advantage in their Game 1 win, Rinne -- fresh off his stellar performance in net -- won't allow himself or his teammates to get too far ahead of themselves.

"We've got to remember it's just Game 1, but any time, you want to get off to a good start and start the series the right way," Rinne said. "Obviously, it feels great to be up 1-0, but now they call it a series."

NOTES: Predators C Calle Jarnkrok returned to the lineup after missing Nashville's regular-season finale due to a lower-body injury. Jarnkrok participated in Thursday's morning skate, but his status for Game 1 was unknown until he took the ice Thursday night. ... Nashville LW Colin Wilson remained out with a lower-body injury. ... Blackhawks C Artem Anisimov returned after missing the final 13 games of the regular season with a foot injury. Anisimov centered a line with Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin after returning to practice on Tuesday. "We'll gauge his effectiveness and energy as we're going along here," coach Joel Quenneville said Thursday morning. "We'll budget him for a regular spot and see how he handles it." ... Chicago scratched F Andrew Desjardins (lower body) and D Michal Rozsival (upper body).

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