Predators stay hot, shut out Flyers
PHILADELPHIA — Last spring, Colton Sissons emerged as a key playoff performer for the Nashville Predators, netting six goals and six assists in 22 playoff games.
On Thursday night, he had a flare for the dramatic, outracing defenseman Andrew MacDonald to score the only goal 3:49 into the final period of the Predators’ 1-0 win over the Philadelphia Flyers.
“Colton plays in all situations for us,” Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. “He’s really come on strong from the second half of last year to the beginning of this year. He’s a go-to guy.”
Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne (4-1-1) stopped all 28 shots he faced to earn his first shutout of the season and the 44th of his 12-year career, all with the Predators.
His biggest stop came with just under four minutes remaining in the game when he flashed his left pad to deny center Sean Couturier from the slot.
“I was able to get my hand on the shot,” Rinne said. “If he puts it under the bar I don’t have a chance. But any time a goalie gets a shutout it’s a compliment to his teammates. I was able to see the puck for the most part and make the saves.”
After opening the season with two losses, the Predators have gone 4-0-1 and have allowed nine goals in those five games — four in the last four.
The loss snapped a two-game winning streak for the Flyers (4-3-0) and marked the second time this season they have been shut out.
“They didn’t get to the Stanley Cup finals with luck,” Flyers captain Claude Giroux said. “They’re a good team. They have a good system. They have a lot of good players. As frustrated as we are right now that we didn’t get the win, we’ve got to stay positive.”
Flyers goaltender Michal Neuvirth (1-2-0) took the loss despite stopping 23 of 24 shots. The Flyers went 0-for-5 on the power play.
Sissons, 23, scored after MacDonald gambled in the Flyers’ offensive zone. Kevin Fiala set up Sissons’s second goal of the season with a cross-ice feed.
“I got a step on (MacDonald) and Fiala made a beautiful saucer pass right on my blade and I put it where I wanted it,” Sissons said.
“It’s a tough play,” Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said. “(MacDonald) sees a loose puck and he wants to go get it. It’s a 0-0 game. That’s a tough play and unfortunately, it’s a race back up the ice. The effort was good, but they got a good quality shot away.”
The Flyers entered the game trailing only the Toronto Maple Leafs in goals per game (4.33) but generated only 16 shots on Rinne through the opening two periods, despite having three power plays. The Flyers’ best offensive chance came with 12 seconds remaining in the second period when Rinne smothered a power-play snap shot by rookie center Nolan Patrick from about 20 feet away.
“It was tight out there, a battle back and forth,” Sissons said. “Thank God we had Pekka between the pipes. He was on top of his game tonight.”
NOTES: Flyers LW Jordan Weal was a late scratch with an upper body injury and is being listed as day-to-day. He was replaced on the second line by LW Jori Lehtera, who played alongside C Valtteri Filppula and RW Wayne Simmonds. Lehtera, 29, was acquired from the St. Louis Blues in the draft-day deal that sent Brayden Schenn to St. Louis. It was his Flyers debut. ... Predators RW Miikka Salomaki returned to the lineup in place of Pontus Aberg and played on a second line with C Calle Jarnkrok and LW Scott Hartnell. D Yannick Weber missed his third straight game with an upper-body injury but participated in Nashville’s optional morning skate. ... Before the game, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman attended the unveiling of a statue of longtime Flyers owner Ed Snider, who passed away April 11, 2016. “He was a man of vision and of passion and he was extraordinarily competitive,” Bettman said. “Like the statue, his accomplishments were larger than life itself.” ... The Flyers play their fourth of five straight home games Saturday afternoon when the Edmonton Oilers visit. The Predators travel to New York to face the Rangers on Saturday, then return home to face the Flames on Tuesday.