Predators' Pekka Rinne scores his first NHL goal
CHICAGO — The man in charge of keeping pucks out of the net for the Predators put a puck into the net Thursday night.
About 185 feet stood between Predators goalie Pekka Rinne and one of his dreams. He watched that dream come true as the puck slid slickly across the ice at the United Center and into the goal during his team's 5-2 victory against the Blackhawks.
A grin was glued to Rinne's face afterward when he tried to describe the play, during which the net was empty and Rinne's hope was full when he shot the puck from behind his own net.
He obviously hadn't rehearsed his celebration, either, during which he raised both arms in triumph as teammates mobbed him.
"I'm not going to lie, it might be a once-in-a-lifetime thing so I really enjoyed it," Rinne said of the goal, which occurred with 22 seconds remaining. "It was an awesome feeling seeing the puck go in.
"To be honest, I thought it was curving left a little bit and then it took a little correction and ended up pretty (in the) middle. I'm trying to see it. Then (Roman Josi) and (Nick) Bonino, they were going nuts. I just threw my hands up in the air and tried to act as cool as I can."
Rinne became the 12th goalie to score a goal in NHL history, and the first since the Coyotes' Mike Smith did it on Oct. 19, 2013. The goal was the 15th ever scored, regular season and playoffs combined. He became the eighth goalie to score with a shot on goal.
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Rinne, who also has 13 career assists, is not the first Predators goalie score a goal, though. That distinction belongs to current color analyst Chris Mason, who scored one on April 15, 2006, against the Coyotes. Mason, a Predators TV analyst and former teammate of Rinne's, witnessed this one Thursday night.
At 37 years, 67 days, Rinne became the second-oldest goalie to score a goal during a regular-season game. Martin Brodeur was 40 years, 319 days when he did it on March 21, 2013, according to the NHL.
The all-time goalie goal-scoring leader is Brodeur, who did it twice off his own stick. Brodeur has three career goals, but the other was awarded to him because he was the last player to touch the puck before an own goal.
"Lucky where the puck was flat on the ice and I was able to take a shot," Rinne said. "I like to play the puck, so that's always something I've dreamed of. Stars were lined up for me tonight.
The victory was the first for new Predators coach John Hynes, who took over the team Tuesday after Peter Laviolette was fired Monday.
Rinne wasn't the only Predator to score his first career goal in the game. Colin Blackwell did so to give his team a 2-0 lead at 8:22 of the first period, saying he "almost blacked out" afterward.
But he was even more excited for Rinne.
"I think I almost jumped to the top of the building when that happened," Blackwell said. "That was pretty unreal."
"Pekka kind of stole his thunder by the end of the game," Hynes said.
Rinne's empty-netter was preceded by another odd goal, when Bonino banked one off the boards and in while Filip Forsberg held off a hard-charging Adam Boqvist.
But that, too, was lost in the excitement of Rinne's goal.
"Only ever seen it one other time," Matt Duchene said. "We had a goalie in summer hockey who scored. But pretty cool to see that in the NHL. It's elite. He's already in such an elite group of goaltenders. He just added himself to another elite group. He deserved that."
As for the magic puck, Rinne said he hadn't seen it as of his postgame scrum with the media.
"I better get it. It's going up there for sure, biggest accomplishment," he joked. "Let's see what (general manager) David (Poile) comes up with. He usually has plaques or something for your first goal."
Goalie goals in NHL history
There have been 15 scored by 12 goalies
Martin Brodeur, Devils, 3: April 17, 1997 (playoffs); Feb. 15, 2000; March 21, 2013
Ron Hextall, Flyers, 2: Dec. 8, 1987; April 17, 1989 (playoffs)
Billy Smith, Islanders, 1: Nov. 28, 1979
Chris Osgood, Red Wings, 1: March 6, 1996
Damian Rhodes, Senators, 1: Jan. 2, 1999
Jose Theodore, Canadiens, 1: Jan. 2, 2001
Evgeni Nabokov, Sharks, 1: March 10, 2002
Mike Nororen, Sabres, 1: Feb. 14, 2004
Chris Mason, Predators, 1: April 15, 2006
Cam Ward, Hurricanes, 1: Dec. 26, 2011
Mike Smith, Coyotes, 1: Oct. 19, 2013
Pekka Rinne, Predators, 1: Jan. 9, 2020
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