Vezina Trophy candidate Pekka Rinne stopped all 38 shots he faced Wednesday night in Game 3 against the Phoenix Coyotes and cut the Nashville Predators series deficit to 2-1.
The Predators came into the game emphasizing that they had to get back to playing their defensive style of game, and that is exactly what they did. The Predators defense, led by Ryan Suter and Shea Weber, were able to stifle the Phoenix forwards and Rinne played big all night in net.
The twin towers of Suter and Weber logged a combine 55:66 of ice time for the Predators.
The Coyotes played a solid game Wednesday night, but they could not overcome two goals scored by the Predators in just over a minute.
The first Nashville goal came on a rare error by Mike Smith. Smith attempted to play the puck behind his own net, but the Predators were forechecking hard. The puck ended up on the stick of Gabriel Borque in the corner, who fed it to a waiting David Legwand in the slot. Legwand had no problem putting the puck in on a wide open net and put the Predators up 1-0.
The next Nashville goal came 1:06 later on another Phoenix turnover. Mikkel Boedker would be stripped of the puck at the blue line by Martin Erat and he fed the puck to a waiting Sergei Kostitsyn waiting behind the Coyotes defense. Kostitsyn would then play catch with Mike Fisher with only open ice in between them. Fisher would attempt to give a return pass to Kostitsyn, but it would deflect off Mike Smith's stick and into the net.
The Coyotes best chance to cut into the lead came midway through the third period on a two-man advantage. With Martin Erat and Kostitsyn both in the box the Coyotes had some of their best chances, but Rinne would stand tall, turning away every Coyote opportunity.
The suspensions of forwards Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn was the headline coming into the game, but the stellar play of Rinne is what will steal the headlines now. It's uncertain if Radulov and Kostitsyn will return for Game 4.
Nashville will look to even the series at 2-2 Friday night at 4:30 p.m. on their home ice.