Rinne breaks shutout streak record at Worlds

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Pekka Rinne’s time at the 2015 World Hockey Championship didn’t start very well, but sure improved quickly.

During Monday’s tilt against Belarus, the Finnish netminder set a tournament record for longest modern-day shutout streak, going 206:26 to break the previous mark set by Slovakia’s Jan Lasak in 2004.

Rinne set the record early in the first period.

As mentioned above, things didn’t start especially well for Rinne at this year’s tourney. He opened with a 5-1 loss to the U.S. on the first day of competition but got better — and in a hurry — following up that loss with wins over Denmark (3-0), Norway (5-0) and Slovenia (4-0).

In Finland’s last game, a 3-0 win over Slovakia, backup Juuse Saros got the nod.

Rinne’s shutout record at the Worlds is a feather in the cap of a pretty successful campaign. The Preds netminder earned his third career Vezina nomination on the strength of a 41-17-6 record, .923 save percentage, 2.18 GAA and four shutouts. The 41 were were two off his career-high, set in 2011-12 (when he finished behind Henrik Lundqvist and Jonathan Quick in Vezina voting.)

Preds re-sign goalie Mazanec: one year, $575K

The Nashville Predators have brought back one of their young goaltending prospects, re-signing Marek Mazanec to a one-year, two-way deal worth $575,000 at the NHL level.

Mazanec, 23, made his big-league debut during the 2013-14 season in the wake of Pekka Rinne’s hip injury, getting significant minutes in tandem with Carter Hutton. The Czech netminder earned NHL Rookie of the Month honors for November that year and finished with a .902 save percentage and 2.80 GAA, but then spent almost all of this season in AHL Milwaukee with Rinne and Hutton filling the Preds’ No. 1 and 2 spots.

Mazanec did appear in a pair of games for the Preds this season, allowing just four goals on 47 shots.

With Rinne and Hutton both under contract for next season — the latter’s heading into his final year, the former’s locked in through 2019 — Mazanec will probably spend next season as a workhorse in Milwaukee, and on-call for spot duty in Nashville.

Video: New Pred Moses opens U.S. scoring at Worlds with beauty goal

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There was some Nashville-on-Nashville crime to open Team USA’s account at the 2015 World Hockey Championships, but Predators fans probably won’t mind.

That’s because their newest signee — KHL goalscoring phenom Steve Moses — opened the American account with a highlight-reel tally against Finland on Friday, scoring this pretty goal against his future teammate, Pekka Rinne:

Moses, 25, signed a one-year, $1M deal with the Preds in early April. The contract came after three years in the KHL with Jokerit, following a four-year career at New Hampshire (and a brief eight-game cameo with the Rangers’ AHL affiliate). Though undersized — 5-foot-9, 170 pounds — Moses is blessed with great skating ability and offensive instincts, which saw him score 70 times for Jokerit over the last three seasons.

“He skates like the wind,” Moses’ former UNH teammate, Leafs forward James van Riemsdyk, told Sportsnet. “He’s really well built. He won’t get thrown around over here.”

Keith conquers: Blackhawks come back, eliminate Predators

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The Nashville Predators aren’t a common playoff threat for the Chicago Blackhawks, so in some ways, this blistering first-round series feels different. Even so, the usual suspects keep coming up big for the Blackhawks, so the script ended up being familiar enough.

Brent Seabrook scored the game-winner in that epic triple-OT contest in Game 4. Duncan Keith was the difference-maker not once, but twice. Patrick Kane was shockingly productive in this series even short of 100 percent; Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa were their usual dominant selves.

It almost felt inevitable when Keith scored the last game-winner, as close as this series was:

With plenty of overtime action in this series, Predators – Blackhawks felt like a seven-game classic. Chicago was able to make enough plays to end it in six, however, beating Nashville in another thriller by a score of 4-3.

Things were wild and woolly in the opening frame. James Neal scored two early goals, and after the teams traded tallies for a 3-1 Nashville lead, Joel Quenneville gave Scott Darling the hook in favor of Corey Crawford.

It wasn’t advantage: Predators for very long, however. Jonathan Toews scored on the power play and Patrick Kane fired a laser beam home late in the first to tie it up 3-3.

There was plenty of action after that, but Chicago was unable to take advantage of a significant advantage in play in the second period, including a 12-7 shot advantage. In general, it seemed like the Blackhawks were locking in to try to put away the Predators, yet both Crawford and Pekka Rinne held strong through much of the action, making for more tight proceedings.

Ultimately, Rinne was unable to turn aside an unrelenting Blackhawks attack culminating with Keith’s game-winner.

With that, the Blackhawks advance to the next round while the Predators’ surprisingly excellent season ends in heartbreak.

Time will tell if Nashville can bounce back and turn this one-off series into a budding rivalry. Whatever happens in 2015-16 and beyond, this was one of those rare gems that may very well convert new fans to the sport.

… Even if the ultimate outcome might seem predictable to some.

Price, Dubnyk, Rinne are Vezina Trophy finalists

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The general managers have had their say and unsurprisingly they’ve picked Montreal’s Carey Price, Minnesota’s Devan Dubnyk, and Nashville’s Pekka Rinne as the three finalists for the 2015 Vezina Trophy.

Of course, Price is regarded as the heavy favorite for the 2015 Vezina Trophy. He led the league in wins (44), GAA (1.96), and save percentage (.933) while starting in 66 games. He’s also been the single biggest component of the Canadiens’ successful 2014-15 campaign and consequently the discussion has shifted as to whether or not he’s worthy of the Hart Trophy as well.

For a time though it looked like fellow nominee Rinne might be able to take the Vezina instead as he was having almost as good of a campaign. However, while Price stayed strong throughout 2014-15, Rinne did falter in the second half. After the All-Star break the Nashville goaltender posted a 2.48 GAA and .911 save percentage in 27 contests. That was enough to make him slip to the point where he finished third in GAA (2.18) and tied for seventh in save percentage (.923) in 64 starts. He still tied for second in wins though with 41.

That being said, Price wasn’t the league’s best goaltender after the All-Star break, although he was a very close second. Devan Dubnyk dominated over that span with a 25-8-2 record, 1.72 GAA, and .939 save percentage in 35 games. That covers most of his tenure with the Wild, but his time with the Arizona Coyotes at the start of the season wasn’t nearly as flattering from a statistical perspective. He was still impressive in Arizona, especially given how the team was playing in front of him, but that time does drag his overall numbers down somewhat. Even still, he ranked second in GAA (2.07) and save percentage (.929) in 58 games this season.