NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Predators coach Peter Laviolette is giving no hint of whether goaltender Pekka Rinne will start in a pivotal Game 3 against Pittsburgh on Saturday night.
Laviolette pulled Rinne for Juuse Saros after the Predators gave up three goals in the first 3:28 of the third period Wednesday night. Pittsburgh finished off a 4-1 win for a 2-0 lead in the Stanley Cup Final.
Asked Thursday if he has made a decision for Game 3, Laviolette said he will not talk about lineup changes. Laviolette said the goalies know who will start, although the Predators’ public relations department clarified that neither Rinne nor Saros knows who will start Game 3, according to TSN.
Rinne went into the final with the stingiest numbers in net this postseason, and he is a favorite to win the Conn Smythe trophy as postseason MVP. The 34-year-old goalie has instead given up eight goals on 36 shots through two games. Two goals went off teammates and into the net, but it has not been the inspiring performance that the Predators and their fans are used to from the big Finn.
His save percentage has dipped throughout the playoffs — .976 against Chicago, then .932 against St. Louis and .925 in the West finals against Anaheim. Against the quick-strike Penguins, it’s just .778.
Still, the three-time Vezina Trophy finalist has allowed only 13 goals in eight playoff games at home and his teammates vowed to play better defense.
“It’s not his fault by any means,” Nashville captain Mike Fisher said of the goals allowed in Pittsburgh. “We know we can do a better job in front of him. It’s a team game, and everyone looks at shots and save percentage but forget about the quality and who we’re playing. And certain parts of the game where we got to help him out.”
Defenseman Ryan Ellis, who has played with Rinne for six years, called the goalie Nashville’s best player, night in and night out.
“There’s nothing that can replace Peks,” Ellis said.