Colin Blackwell scored his first NHL goal on Thursday night in Chicago.
And then Pekka Rinne did the same.
The Predators goaltender put an exclamation point on a 5-2 victory over the Blackhawks, as John Hynes collected his first win behind the bench for Nashville. The road victory is win No. 20 on the season for the Preds. Plus, it’s a positive step as the group looks to gain points with a fresh voice.
But more on the game in a moment. There’s a goalie goal to discuss.
After Nick Bonino iced the game by making it 4-2 with an empty-net tally of his own, the puck found its way back into the Nashville zone and onto the stick of RInne. A goaltender who has had aspirations of scoring a goal his entire career, Rinne wasn’t about to pass up a rare chance to take his shot at an empty cage.
He lifted the puck into the atmosphere, and after it looked as though it might curve to the left, fortunes changed and it rolled its way over the line. And then the Preds made a beeline for their goaltender.
“For sure [it’s a dream come true], I’m not going to lie,” Rinne smiled. “I obviously understand it might be a once-in-a-lifetime thing, so I really enjoyed it. It was an awesome feeling seeing the puck go in… But I’m trying to see it and then [Roman Josi] and [Nick] Bonino, I think they were going nuts, and it was pretty cool. I just threw my hands up in the air and tried to try to act as cool as I can.”
“That’s the first time I’ve ever been a part of a goalie goal,” Blackwell said. “I almost jumped to the top of the building when that happened. That was pretty unreal.”
The entire night wasn’t perfect – and it wasn’t expected to be – but the Predators found a way to get the job done with Hynes implementing his systems for the first time.
“We had a very strong start, and a lot of the things that we worked on, you could see in the game,” Hynes said. “As the game wore on, there were ups and downs, but I think there were more ups than downs, which was better than what we did against Boston [on Tuesday]. So, I’m really happy for the guys. It’s been a tough week for them, they put in some work, they’ve really listened and they had to really battle for this win. It’s certainly a building block to be able to go on.”
Nashville’s start was outstanding, and it took just 3:16 into the contest for Josi to deke through what seemed like every Blackhawks player on the ice before backhanding a shot off of Viktor Arvidsson and in. The assist extended Josi’s point streak to 12-consecutive games, a mark that extends his career-high and franchise record for defensemen.
Just five minutes later, a pair of forwards, who began the season with the Milwaukee Admirals, connected, as Yakov Trenin fed Colin Blackwell in front, and the winger went top shelf on Corey Crawford for his first-career NHL goal.
“Honestly, I kind of blacked out,” Blackwell laughed. “It’s one of those things where just to get that monkey off your back… Playing some games last year and then being up here for a little while now, I’ve had some chances and finally put one in the back of the net. It definitely felt pretty good, so I just kind of let out a little bit of emotion.”
Before the opening period was out, Matt Duchene picked up an extra birthday present for his 1-year-old son, Beau, when he beat Crawford in tight to give the Preds a 3-0 advantage after the first 20 minutes.
“I got the puck for him,” Duchene smiled. “His first game, last year, I actually scored [and got the puck for him]… so I thought I would keep the tradition going. It was pretty nice to get one for him.”
The Blackhawks got on the board in the second when Dominik Kubalik tallied his 14th of the season, and Alex DeBrincat cut the Nashville lead to one early in the third, but Hynes immediately called his timeout to settle his team down.
Chicago continued to push, but the Predators held tight before a pair of empty-netters sent the visitors home happy.
“It was huge,” Rinne said of the win. “It’s still a work in progress… implementing all [Hynes’s] new things to systems and offensively, defensively, specialty teams, everything like that. I thought that we did a really good job tonight.”
There is still plenty of work to be done as Hynes works to improve his new team day by day, but this was an impressive starting point.
“Getting through [Chicago’s push] and finding a way to win the game was good for these guys because there’s a lot of positives from it,” Hynes said. “When you can win and teach, it’s better to have to teach and lose. So, we’ll take the positives of that.”
At 37 years and 67 days, Pekka Rinne is the second oldest goaltender in NHL history to score a goal. He is just the 12th goaltender in League history to accomplish the feat.
The Predators became the first franchise in NHL history with two goaltenders to score, with Rinne joining Chris Mason in the record books.
Dante Fabbro (upper-body, day-to-day), Austin Watson and Alexandre Carrier were scratched for the Preds on Thursday.
With two more days in between games, the Predators will return home for a moment before their three-game road trip continues on Sunday afternoon in Winnipeg (at 1 p.m. CT).