Whatever is working for the Nashville Predators right now, they need to bottle it and use it for the remainder of the year. Pekka Rinne had his second straight shutout, stopping all 19 Phoenix shots, as Nashville beat the Coyote 3-0 in front of the 19th consecutive sold-out crowd at Bridgestone Arena.
The Predators received goals from Mike Fisher, Nick Spaling, and a powerplay marker from Gabriel Bourque, all three coming in the third period. Nashville is now 7-0-4 when recording at least one goal in a game and 0-3-0 when being shutout.
Coming out with a bit more fire than their previous two starts, the Predators saw themselves in a tightly contested first period where they were outshot by the Coyotes, however only by a 7-6 margin. The highlight of the period, though, came early on when Phoenix emerged on a rare 5-on-1 after the Predators got caught up in the Phoenix end.
“I haven’t seen a 5-on-1 in years. It was like a flock of seagulls or something,” said Head Coach Barry Trotz.
Former Predators player Steve Sullivan, who was Nashville for the better part of 7 years, took the only and final attempt on net during the 5-on-1, which was stopped by Pekka Rinne.
“I didn’t realize there were so many guys coming up the ice. It was more of a 2-on-1,” said Sullivan. “When the defenseman took my pass away, I just decided to take it to the net and try to shoot. Rinne was there for the save.”
Nashville would get quite a few chances through the first 40 minutes, however Mike Smith answered every one of them, sending the Predators into bit of a fit and a little bit of frustration. Two of the Predators best chances on net were taken in the final moments of the second, where two Nashville near-goals caused the game operations staff to signal a goal twice. While neither ended up in the net, the Predators tried not to get frustrated after that series of events.
“We were throwing pucks, we were getting chances, and we knew it was going to come,” said Predators defenseman Ryan Ellis. “It was just a matter of time if we played the way we did at the end of the second, there. We figured we could get a couple if we really worked hard.”
“I felt like we got a little more determined that we were going to get this and then stayed with it. Sometimes, it’s easy to get frustrated because we were going really well,” said Trotz, “At the same time it’s easy to say, ‘hey, we got them on their heels.’ That was the feeling I got in our dressing room.”
Nashville finally broke through the Mike Smith barrier 2:40 into the third period on a Gabriel Bourque powerplay marker, their first goal on the powerplay since Colin Wilson’s marker midway through the second period against the Kings on February 7th (a stretch of 7 days and nearly 12 straight regulation periods)
“To get that first one, we kind of knew we had it. We just kept going and plugging along there, they obviously had a good game and played hard,” said Ryan Ellis. “Pekks was great tonight for us again, we just luckily got 3 on them.”
Rinne’s play throughout the evening was again another stellar performance for the Finnish netminder in the month of February, his 5th win in 6 outings and his 3rd shutout of the month.
“Oh, it’s unbelievable. I’ve never seen a goalie that good and that competitive, even in practice. If you score in practice, you should be pretty happy. He’s a very competitive guy, he works hard, and that’s why he’s the best in the league,” said Ellis.
Nick Spaling and Mike Fisher each tallied a goal as the period stretched on, at 9:38 and 18:16 respectively. Only the third time this season Nashville has had a lead of 3 goals or more, it provided a bit of a cushion for Rinne as the team could focus on locking the Coyotes down for the rest of the evening.
“The guys explode at the end there, it was a really tight game and they scored a couple quick ones. It’s a great feeling after that, the game is three to nothing and you can breathe a bit after that,” said Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne. “At the end of the game, you know they’re going to give their last push. We know our team is going to play strong defensively and just protect our net. It’s a good feeling to be back there.”
Nashville would take a penalty in the final 30 seconds of the game, but held strong to shut out the Coyotes and move to within 5 points of the Central Division-leading Chicago Blackhawks.
The Predators face off against the Pacific Division-leading Anaheim Ducks in two days, a team they lost 3-2 in a shootout on January 26th.
FULL POST-GAME QUOTES:
On finally getting another win against Phoenix…
Last year in the playoffs, it was tough to lose against them. Obviously this year they beat us 4-0 too. So to shut them out here tonight 3-0, it’s big momentum for us going into the next week.
On if it was frustrating after the couple of chances at the end of the second period…
Yeah, I mean, a little bit. We were throwing pucks, we were getting chances, and we knew it was going to come. It was just a matter of time if we played at the end of the second, there. We figured we could get a couple if we really worked hard. It was nice.
On if there was a feeling of relief after that first goal…
Absolutely, to get that first one and then we kind of knew we had it. We just kept going and plugging along there, they obviously had a good game and played hard. Pekks was great tonight for us again, we just luckily got 3 on them.
On the play of Pekka Rinne so far…
Oh, it’s unbelievable. I’ve never seen a goalie that good and that competitive, even in practice. If you score in practice, you should be pretty happy. He’s a very competitive guy, he works hard, and that’s why he’s the best in the league.
On if there are any mental issues when they have a shutout going late in a game…
Yeah, I think so. I don’t there is any issues, but when a goalie is playing that well for you, you obviously want to reward him. To take a penalty with 30 seconds left? Those guys out there, they know they want to shut them out and they did a great job as well.
On if the fans give them an emotional boost once they get going…
Yeah, absolutely! We have some great fans here, some of the best in the league. When we reward them with goals or nice plays and we hear them cheering, it fires you up and it kind of drives you. It’s a little added fuel to the fire.
On being snakebit against Phoenix…
Yeah, they’ve played well against us. We owed them one this year, for sure. I thought it was a great effort from everyone tonight. We came out real strong, a little more hungry, and it was a solid effort from everyone.
On getting 3 goals in a game…
Yeah, it was nice [laughs], nice to get kind of a lead and keep building on it. Give Pekks a bit of run support, so overall a lot of parts of our game were much better
On the overall play of the team…
We were doing a great job. There was not too many times they had second chances. It is my job to make the first save and hopefully hold onto the puck. If there is a rebound, pretty much every single time over the last couple of games the guys have been there for me. There doing a great job. Even the PK has been doing an awesome job. That’s one of the areas we thought we could be better. Special teams have been our bread and butter in the past. We play a solid 5-on-5 game and try to make the difference on special teams. Early on we didn’t do really do that, since then we’ve been a lot better with special teams.
On goal support from the offense…
Oh yeah, the guys have been working so hard and it’s great to see them finding the back of the net. The guys explode at the end there, it was a really tight game and they scored a couple quick ones. It’s a great feeling after that. The game is three to nothing and you can breathe a bit after that.
On having a lead late in the game and having a cushion…
Especially at the end of the game, you know they’re going to give their last push. We know our team is going to play strong defensively and just protect our net. It’s a good feeling to be back there
On if they are starting to get on a roll…
Yeah, our past 7 games or so we’ve been winning a lot, getting points, so it’s been going on for a while now. We’ve just been playing solid and getting better and better. Obviously it helps when we score a few goals, it gives everybody confidence.
On what has been working so far…
I think it’s the 5 guys playing together, up and down the ice. Our D is, like always, is a big part of our offense. Our forwards are helping out in our end, we’ve been plucking a lot of shots. Mike Fisher has been leading the league for forwards [in blocked shots], Hanner and Kleiner, Jose and Webs, all those guys blocking tons of shots. All those things come to play when you think about our defensive game.
Powerplay – 1 for 2, 50%
Penalty Kill – 4 for 4, 100%
Best Play of the Game: Mike Fisher’s late goal in the third was an absolute laser over Mike Smith’s shoulder, giving Fisher his second of the season and relieving a bit of frustrating as well.
Worst Play of the Game: The penalty taken by Gaustad in the last 30 seconds of the game. Definitely heart-stopping action with a shutout on the line.
My Three Stars (voted by me):
#1: – Pekka Rinne
#2: – Gabriel Bourque
#3: – Nick Spaling
POST-GAME NOTES (From Nashville Predators PR Staff)
Nashville outshot their opponent for only the second time this season, putting 29 shots on goal against Phoenix. Eight Predators had multiple shots on goal.
The Predators have allowed only 23 goals in 14 games this season (an NHL-leading 1.64 GA/G).
Nashville’s PK unit has killed off 15 straight penalties on home ice.
228 shots have been blocked by the Predators this season, the most in the NHL.
The team’s Valentine’s Day record improved to 5-1-0.
Martin Erat celebrated his 700th NHL regular-season game with his third multi-point game (2a) of the 2012-13 campaign.
Pekka Rinne’s second consecutive shutout gives him the outright NHL lead in the category (3). He has not allowed a goal in 137:41. … The Finnish netminder has had a stellar month of February so far, posting a 5-1-0 record to accompany a goals-against average of 0.82 and a save percentage of 0.969.
Gabriel Bourque’s goal at 2:40 of the third period was his first NHL powerplay goal, and second game-winner of the season.
Colin Wilson now has eight points (3g-5a) in his last seven games.
Wilson and Ryan Ellis each have points in back-to-back games.
Shea Weber led the Predators in ice time for a 13th consecutive game, with 25:31 against Phoenix.
Attendance: 17,113 (Sellout)
Three Stars: 1) P. Rinne 2) R. Ellis 3) M. Fisher
Nashville is back in action Saturday night as they take on the Coyotes at Bridgestone Arena. Game is at 7:00pm CT.