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Stanley Cup Final

Pekka Rinne pulled by Predators again but confident for Game 6

Goalie lasts one period in Game 5 loss to Penguins, third in row on road

by Tom Gulitti @tomgulittinhl / NHL.com Staff Writer

PITTSBURGH -- This Stanley Cup Final has been a tale of two cities for Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne.

In the two games in Nashville, Rinne was superb. But the three games here have been a recurring nightmare for him and the Predators.

 

[RELATED: Complete Penguins vs. Predators series coverage | Matt Murray bounces back in Game 5]

 

Rinne's road struggles in the Stanley Cup Final continued in a 6-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 5 at PPG Paints Arena on Thursday.

Rinne was pulled for the second time in his three starts here after allowing three goals on nine shots in the first period. Rookie backup Juuse Saros replaced him and didn't fare much better, giving up three goals on 15 shots.

"We just didn't have it tonight," Rinne said. "Obviously, a big game, big disappointment, but Game 6 at home and that's all we can control and what we're going to focus [on]. Obviously, not the Game 5 we wanted to play, but that's life."

With the Predators trailing the best-of-7 series 3-2, there's little doubt coach Peter Laviolette will go back to Rinne in Game 6 at Nashville on Sunday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVA Sports). In winning Games 3 and 4 there, Rinne stopped 50 of 52 shots for a .962 save percentage.

"With regard to Pekka, our guys have a tremendous amount of confidence in him," Laviolette said. "We've just got to do a better job in front of him."

Video: NSH@PIT, Gm5: Laviolette on rebounding after 6-0 loss

If the Predators make Game 7 necessary back here Wednesday, Rinne will have to figure out how to stop more pucks away from home.

Rinne has allowed 11 goals on 45 shots for a 5.41 goals-against average and a .756 save percentage on the road in this series. In six games at PPG Paints Arena, including the regular season, he's 0-6-0 with a 5.15 GAA and .822 save percentage.

Rinne gave up four goals on 11 shots in a 5-3, Game 1 loss and then was pulled in the third period of a 4-1, Game 2 loss after giving up four goals on 25 shots.

There was some question after that about whether Rinne would start Game 3 at home, but Laviolette stayed with him and Rinne made 27 saves in a 5-1 win. Rinne followed that with 23 saves, several of them spectacular, in a 4-1, Game 4 win at Bridgestone Arena on Monday.

But returning to Pittsburgh brought back Rinne's troubles.

"You obviously knew what happened the first two games, but that's not going to change the way I play or the way I prepare," Rinne said. "Right now, our mission is to win the Game 6 and then come back here and play the best game of the series."

The Penguins scored on their third shot on Game 5, a straight-on power-play blast by defenseman Justin Schultz that found an opening between Rinne's pads 1:31 into the first period. Rinne was screened on the play by teammate Austin Watson.

"The guys tried to do everything right," Rinne said. "[Watson] tried to block the shot and it just came through, and after that if you don't pick it up it's too late to react after that, and unfortunately it went in."

Bryan Rust lifted a backhand from the slot past Rinne's glove into the right corner to make it 2-0 at 6:43. The Predators seemed to stabilize the game after that, but Evgeni Malkin scored a 4-on-4 goal with 11 seconds remaining to make it 3-0.

After taking a drop pass from Phil Kessel, Malkin whipped a shot from the left circle past Rinne's glove. It might have deflected up off the stick of Predators defenseman Yannick Weber.

"None of that is [Pekka's] fault," Predators forward Harry Zolnierczyk said. "Our best shot-blocker goes down to block it and it squeaks through his legs and Pekka can't pick it up. Third one tipped off [Weber's] stick, I believe. Second one, nothing to do with [Pekka], just the coverage we had. We just weren't smart tonight."

Saros led the Predators out for the start of the second period, and he allowed a goal on the first shot he faced, from Conor Sheary at 1:19, to make it 4-0.

Rinne said his confidence was fine despite being pulled again.

"I'm not going to take those goals personally," he said. "It was just the way the game was going, and what I understood it was just to try to spark the team up and get us going again."

Video: Pens roll past Preds, 6-0, take 3-2 series lead

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