By Amanda DiPaolo
Pekka Rinne made 35 saves and Sergei Kostitsyn scored twice in the Nashville Predators 3-0 win over Detroit Saturday night in front of a sold out Bridgestone Arena. The win snaps a four-game losing skid that started before the All-Star Break for the Predators. Detroit has lost consecutive games by the same 3-0 score.
It was Rinne’s fourth shutout of the season. Nashville’s starting netminder now has a goals against average of 2.04 with a save percentage of .931 for second in the League in both categories behind Boston’s Tim Thomas.
Saturday’s game was the first time the Red Wings played in Nashville this season. The two clubs are scheduled to play three more times before the end of the regular season. Detroit currently has a game in hand on Nashville, but the Predators are only 5 points shy of the Central Division leaders.
The Predators opened scoring at 3:18 into the first period when Shea Weber’s slap shot went over Joey MacDonald’s shoulder to score on the power play. Justin Abdelkader was in the box for goaltender interference. It was Weber’s 10th goal of the year. Ryan Suter and Colin Wilson collected the assists.
Nashville played less than a minute into the second period before Henrik Zetterberg drew two minors on the same shift. Kostitsyn and Patric Hornqvist were called for tripping and holding respectively — both on Zetterberg.
With an entire 5-on-3 man advantage, the Predators showed why the penalty kill is ranked third overall in the NHL by only allowing three shots on goal.
Detroit’s head coach, Mike Babcock, said special teams is what won the game. “What a great opportunity to really push them at the start of the second. We had really set ourselves up good there with the 5-on-3. You’ve got two full minutes and we lost every battle from the start — the first group never really got it in their zone, and then I put out the second group, Z’s group, and we didn’t get an opportunity.”
Babcock said Nashville’s special teams were just better than Detroit’s special teams. Scoring a shorthanded goal is just another example of Nashville’s second period domination. With Jerred Smithson in the box for roughing, Kostitysn broke into the Detroit zone shorthanded on the strength of a pass from Suter from Nashville’s blue line. Kostitsyn rushed to the net and flipped the puck with one hand over the shoulder of MacDonald. It was Nashville’s third shorthanded goal of the season.
Halfway through the third period, Wilson and Abdelkader dropped the gloves but before any punches were ever thrown the two were separated by the officials. Both players were sent to the box for delay of game.
Detroit came on strong during the third period peppering Rinne with 17 shots in the final frame, but only Nashville would score another goal. Kostitsyn added his second goal of the game with under three minutes left in regulation. It was Kostitsyn’s 14th goal of the season. Marcel Goc and Martin Erat picked up the assists.
It was Steve Sullivan’s first game back since being injured December 23rd against Ottawa. Sullivan saw 9:04 of ice time. Sullivan was happy to be back in the lineup. “It sucks being out. Whenever you get back in the lineup, we try to get in there as fast as we can. So, it was good to be back in there and just help the boys.”
Detriot’s Jan Mursak left the game early in the first with a lower-body injury and did not return.
Nashville’s home record improves to 12-4-6 with 19 games left to play on home ice before the regular season draws to a close. The Predators next play on Monday night when the Edmonton Oilers make their first of two visits to Bridgestone Arena this season. Tickets are still available at the box office.
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