NASHVILLE, Tenn. — In his first two games, Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne ceded nine goals, losing 4-3 in Boston and picking up a win when his teammates erased a 5-3 deficit with three goals in the last 12 minutes to beat Philadelphia 6-5.
Out came the naysayers who have dogged Rinne for parts of the last three years. He's aging, they said. He's no longer the man, they stated. Last year's run to the Stanley Cup Finals drained him, they commented.
Over his past four games, Rinne made his statement: a 4-1 win over Dallas, a 2-1 overtime loss in Chicago, a 4-1 win over Colorado, a 1-0 win at Philadelphia.
That's four goals in four games, which by any metric is a pretty good goals-against average and save percentage. After getting a game off Saturday in Nashville's 4-2 road loss to the New York Rangers, Rinne will return to net Tuesday night for the Predators' home game against the Calgary Flames in Bridgestone Arena.
The big Finnish netminder, who has stopped 111 of 115 shots in the past four games, is 4-1-1 with a 2.01 GAA and a .932 save percentage for the season. He referred to his 44th career shutout in Philadelphia as a team effort.
"Our main thing is to play tighter as a team and to make good decisions," Rinne said after the Thursday night win. "By no means are we a defensive team … but tonight that was a great road game."
Before the Saturday loss, Nashville (4-3-1) had earned points in five consecutive games. The Predators controlled long stretches against New York, posting a 25-15 edge in shots and storming the Rangers' zone during most of the third period.
However, Henrik Lundqvist managed to protect a one-goal edge most of the period until New York got an empty-netter in the last minute.
"You work to get the opportunities, and I thought we did. They didn't go for us tonight," Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. "But the effort was there. The guys played a pretty good game."
While Nashville takes an optimistic tack going into play Tuesday, Calgary (4-4-0) enters off a 4-2 home loss Saturday night to a Minnesota Wild team playing the second half of a back-to-back without several injured forwards.
The Flames led 2-1 with just under 10 minutes left when the Wild suddenly struck back with three goals, the first two coming in a 95-second span. It was Calgary's third consecutive home loss.
"In the third, I thought we had pretty good control," Calgary coach Glen Gulutzan said. "They made two really good shots."
Those shots were a wrister by Ryan Suter off a rush at 10:52, followed by Jared Spurgeon's booming slapper that gave Minnesota the lead for good.
Flames goalie Mike Smith, acquired in an offseason trade with Arizona, blamed himself for the loss.
"That one just has to be stopped," Smith said of Spurgeon's game-winner. "Plain and simple, has to be stopped. Especially in close games, you've just got to make those saves, and tonight it didn't happen and we lost because of it."
The Flames will be without 45-year-old forward Jaromir Jagr (lower-body injury), who was placed on injured reserve Monday. He left the Saturday night game after the first period and didn't return.
Jagr has two assists in five games after signing with Calgary as the season opened.