One of just 19 saves Pekka Rinne had to make on the night. (PHOTO: Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports)

Nashville Predators 3, Phoenix Coyotes 0: Pekka Rinne Stops 19 Shots, Earns His Third Shutout

Nashville Predators vs Phoenix Coyotes

For two periods the Nashville Predators and Phoenix Coyotes were as close as could be. (PHOTO: Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports)

The last time the Nashville Predators met the Phoenix Coyotes, out in the desert on January 28th, the home team won by shutout. Last night the same thing happened. The only difference was that the venue was Bridgestone Arena.

The Preds and Coyotes played exactly the sort of game you’d expect for two periods, a tight-checking, defensively oriented contest focused more on avoiding mistakes than trying to any offensive flow. It’s a game plan that’s worked more often than not for Nashville the last few weeks, especially with Pekka Rinne shining in net. He was flawless again to begin the game, but he didn’t have to work quite as hard as he has in some other recent games because the Preds’ forechecking was allowing them to spend more time in the Phoenix zone as the game wore on.

Much as they had against San Jose, the Nashville Predators looked like the stronger team by the end of the second period. Going into the third they were leading in shots 20-13 but had gone nine consecutive regulation periods without a goal, as noted by @Snarlz42 on Twitter. Perhaps Barry Trotz let them know that during the intermission, because they blew the game open when they got back on the ice.

Gabriel Bourque got things started by drawing a hooking penalty on Mikkel Boedker for the Preds’ fourth power play of the night. Less than a minute later Martin Erat fired a shot toward net that hit Bourque’s skate and bounced in to break the deadlock and give Nashville the 1-0 lead. Shea Weber got the secondary assist for his second point of the season.

The Preds held that lead for the next eight minutes before Colin Wilson and Matt Halischuk gained possession of the puck in Phoenix’s right corner. Halischuk picked up his first assist of the season by feeding Nick Spaling, who buried a beautiful snap shot just below the crossbar to make the lead 2-0.

Mike Fisher scored on a similar shot at 18:16 that also came about from the Preds’ forecheckers setting up in the corner, wrapping up the scoring for the game.

Some observations:

  • Pekka Rinne earned the win, his sixth in his last seven starts. It was also his third shutout in the last four games, making him the league leader in that category. He only had to stop 19 shots this time around but he looked great when he was called upon.
  • After crushing nearly all their opponents in the faceoff circle this month, the Nashville Predators were blown out by the Coyotes 30-16. Much of the difference was that Paul Gaustad was in normal human mode, winning just 53 percent on the night.
  • In my game preview I said the Preds needed good games from Rinne, Colin Wilson, and Martin Erat. Rinne got the shutout, Wilson had an assist, and Erat picked up two assists. (I’m available for palm readings but I can’t make head or tail of tea leaves.)
  • Those were Erat’s first points since February 5th and gave him nine on the season, moving him back into a tie with Wilson for the team lead.
  • Barry Trotz juggled the lines some more tonight. David Legwand centered Erat and Wilson for much of the night, while Fisher played between Sergei Kostitsyn and Gabriel Bourque. By the time Fisher got his goal he was once again playing with Erat.
  • Speaking of that Fisher goal – he had one-timed a shot in almost exactly the same fashion earlier in the game, from nearly the same spot. When he he scored he had called for the pass, looking for exactly that play. It worked the second time around, a nice boost for Fish’s second goal of the season.
  • Jonathon Blum played 16:31 in his second straight night starting in place of Hal Gill. He didn’t put any shots on net but did look good in his own end.

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