Predators goalie Pekka Rinne—or, just as plausibly, some amateur wearing his sweater and pads—ended Nashville’s Stanley Cup bid tonight with two incredibly soft goals allowed in the first period of Game 7 against the Jets, leading to an eventual 5-1 Winnipeg victory. Rinne, a Vezina Trophy finalist who looked shaky even on his first couple of saves, made his initial mistake nine minutes into the game by not fully covering his near post and letting a goal credited to Tyler Myers slip in off his skate.
And just two minutes later, Paul Stastny received an easy point-blank goal when Rinne appeared to lose track of a rebound and moved his body away from the puck. That goal, and the 2-0 lead it gave the Jets, brought a painful silence over the Nashville crowd.
Before the puck dropped again, Rinne was yanked for back-up goalie Juuse Saros, who gave an admirable effort but couldn’t do much to give back the momentum his team had lost. A P.K. Subban slap shot goal on the powerplay allowed the Predators hope at the end of the first, but Mark Scheifele’s blistering one-timer nullified it late in the second, and a powerplay tap-in by Stastny in the third essentially ended the game with eight minutes to spare.
Despite two stellar performances on the road in Games 4 and 6, Rinne could only win the Preds one home game in the entire second-round series, and he exits the playoffs with a .848 save percentage in those four games in Nashville. Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck, meanwhile, earned his team a trip to the next round with a clutch Game 7 performance of 36 saves on 37 shots. And even though his team won by at least three goals in all of their wins, Hellebuyck’s own second-round save percentage of .929 was good enough to knock off the Presidents’ Trophy winners, and send Winnipeg farther than it’s ever been in the playoffs before. The Jets will now carry the hopes of Canada’s first Stanley Cup since 1993 into the Western Conference Finals versus Vegas.