PITTSBURGH – Pekka Rinne’s first year of full-time service for the Nashville Predators was 2008. Before this season, he had been to the Stanley Cup Playoffs’ second round three times, falling short of a championship round appearance each time. At 34, the opportunities to lead a team to the Stanley Cup were dwindling.
So he’s relishing the moment where he’s two wins away from winning one with the Predators.
“It means everything to me right now. Just living my dream,” said Rinne on Wednesday. “Obviously, you don’t want to look back yet.”
The Predators were confident that they’d play another game in Pittsburgh after losing the first two there, but nothing is guaranteed in the NHL. If things went sideways in Nashville, the Penguins might have been planning for a parade, rather than a fifth game of the Stanley Cup Final, on Thursday night.
Instead, the Predators and Penguins are both two wins away from hoisting the Cup. Which is a fun place to be if you’re the team that was “last through the door,” as Peter Laviolette puts it.
Except with a championship in reach, it can also be hard to focus on fun when there’s business at hand.
“I think we have fun. I mean, we do laugh a little bit,” said Laviolette, not laughing. “I do think it is a lot of business. But, believe it or not, I do smile once in a while.
“We are enjoying it because we’re here. We’re playing. I said it to the guys the other day and it was after a tough loss, June whatever, when we got back home, 0-2. I said, ‘How lucky are we? How lucky are we to be playing hockey in June?’ We smile once in a while, but not too much,” he said.
Captain Mike Fisher said the trick is to balance the enthusiasm of the moment with the business at hand.
“We’re both here for a reason. Like we talked about, it’s a grind. They’ve come through three tough teams and so have we. We’re all here for a reason. Part of that’s because of hunger, that desire. For us, it’s the first Cup,” said Fisher. “At the end of the day, everyone wants that. That’s what we all as kids dream about. That’s what it’s going to come down to here in the next few days.”
Game 5 is Thursday night in Pittsburgh, where the Predators did not have fun in Games 1 and 2.
MORE FROM YAHOO SPORTS