The Nashville Predators broke a four game losing streak tonight at Bridgestone Arena, defeating the Phoenix Coyotes 3-0. Pekka Rinne notched his 3rd shutout of the year, making 33 saves, while Nashville's power play scored two goals.
"Tonight was a huge win. It has been tough the last few games but I think the direction we are going has been pretty good," Rinne stated postgame, and his comments were reflective of the entire team's countenance.
After the jump, video highlights, player and coach quotes and further analysis.
For all the worries about the power play and goal scoring, the Preds started things off correctly in the 1st period. Joel Ward took a hooking penalty, but the call was offset soon after by a penalty to David Schlemko for interference. Steve Sullivan sent a pass through the crease to Shea Weber at the right of the net, who shanked it into the path of Patric Hornqvist. Hornqvist, of course, shot the puck, and the rebound found Weber who buried it past Ilya Bryzgalov at 3:36 for a power play goal.
"I think it was good for our power play to get the team off on the right foot," Weber said.
The Preds showed a marked improvement in the hustle department from previous games, working to kill off two Phoenix power plays in the 1st, which made 23 straight kills (this number increased to 24 by night's end) without allowing a goal.
The second period, strangely, was almost a mirror image of the 1st. Phoenix outshot Nashville, Pekka Rinne was strong, and the Preds potted their 2nd power play goal of the night when Cal O`Reilly scored on the 5-on-3.
Ryan Suter hit Steve Sullivan with a feed to the left of Ilya Bryzgalov, and Sully immediately spotted O'Reilly to Bryz's far side. His pass completely froze the goalie, and the good puck movement on the power play allowed O'Reilly to put it in an open net.
"Sullivan made a great pass - he did all the work and I had an empty net there," O'Reilly said of his goal.
While the man advantage was the story through 2 periods, and justifiably so, Pekka Rinne was incredibly sharp in goal. His rebound control was good, and the ability to snag a puck out of midair to stem the tide equally important. Tonight's shutout was perhaps his best game of the year, and when a team struggles offensively like Nashville does, Rinne's strong play of late becomes even more important.
Jordin Tootoo scored on his second try at an empty net in the 3rd period, after his first attempt was blocked by a Coyote. In typical Tootoo fashion, the subsequent celebration (pictured) was fairly priceless.
While not a complete effort for Nashville, it was certainly an encouraging one on the heels of a losing streak where no matter how hard the team worked, nothing seemed to go right. On this night, the Predators received two power play goals, a perfect penalty kill, and a shutout from their franchise goaltender. That, folks, is something to build on as the Blue Jackets await.
- Pekka Rinne, Shea Weber, and Cal O'Reilly were the 3 stars of the game.
- Marcel Goc, once again, led all Nashville forwards in ice time.
- Without David Legwand and mired in a slump, Barry Trotz was forced to revamp the lines tonight. Colin Wilson was moved to the top line with O'Reilly and Sullivan, while Patric Hornqvist and J.P. Dumont joined Nick Spaling. Trotz said that he just thought they "needed a change. They were looking a little bit haggard, if you will".