Rinne stops 34 shots in Predators’ 2-0 win over Blues
ST. LOUIS — There was a little extra meaning to Pekka Rinne’s shutout of the St. Louis Blues on Friday night for the Nashville Predators.
The 2-0 win was Rinne’s second shutout of the season and the 45th of his career, which moved him past Miikka Kiprusoff for the most career shutouts in NHL history by a Finnish-born goaltender.
“It’s a fun little thing,” Rinne said. “He’s a guy I always looked up to and I was really happy when I had a chance to play against one of my idols so that’s pretty cool.”
The Predators needed Rinne to be almost perfect Friday night as he had to protect a 1-0 lead nearly the entire game before Austin Watson scored an empty-net goal with 48 seconds to play.
Ryan Johansen had scored the first goal just 2:32 into the game and Rinne made that lead stand up by stopping 34 shots and keeping the Blues’ top line of Vladimir Tarasenko, Brayden Schenn and Jaden Schwartz from scoring. Schenn’s point-scoring streak was snapped at a career-high eight games.
“That’s one of the top lines in the NHL right now,” Rinne said. “It’s a good challenge for us and for myself too. Obviously with (shutting them down) I need a lot of help from my teammates. I think guys did a really good job shutting them down. Tarasenko has such a good shot and we kept him pretty quiet tonight. That’s not easy to do and that’s a credit to my teammates.”
The win was the fourth in a row for the Predators and improved their record to 9-1-0 in their last 10 games. The Blues saw their three-game winning streak snapped.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game,” said Nashville coach Peter Laviolette. “It was 1-0 game and they’re a good hockey club. It went our way tonight.”
Rinne’s performance was a reminder for the Blues of why the Predators beat them in the playoffs last year en route to reaching the Stanley Cup final. It was St. Louis’ first game within the Central Division since Oct. 19 and its first against the Predators this season.
“I felt we weren’t sharp enough to create some offense against a team like that,” said Blues coach Mike Yeo. “I thought we made it easy to defend against, stayed on the outside a little too much.
“I think the second and third period we were the better team. We got off to a slow start and we gave up one goal. We gave ourselves a chance to win but we’ve got to be better than that. I don’t know that we made it real hard on their goalie.”
Johansen gave the Predators the early lead with his third goal, converting a pass from Filip Forsberg and beating former teammate Carter Hutton, who got the start in net for the Blues.
“I saw it, but it was pretty much a perfect shot,” Hutton said. “You obviously want to make every save but he took a slap shot. Guys score good goals, it’s a good league.”
Hutton, who stopped 26 of the 27 shots he faced, spent three years as the backup goalie to Rinne and is usd to seeing him perform like he did on Friday night.
“He’s a pretty elite goalie,” Hutton said. “We weren’t able to find one tonight.”
One of the problems for the Blues was their inability to generate much offense on the power play, going 0-for-3. They came into the game ranked 24th in the NHL on the power play despite having the best record in the Western Conference.
The fact that Rinne was able to shut down a Blues offense that scored eight goals in their last game did not surprise his teammates.
“He deserves a lot of credit like most nights,” Johansen said. “He’s been stellar to start the year so far and you need good goaltending to win in this league. He’s been the backbone. We need him to keep doing what he’s doing.”
NOTES: RW Austin Watson returned to the Predators lineup after serving a two-game suspension, the result of a boarding penalty against Colorado’s Dominic Toninato on Nov. 18. ... The Blues recalled RW Sammy Blais from San Antonio of the AHL but he was a healthy scratch. Blais could be in the lineup on Saturday night when the Blues host the Minnesota Wild. Regular goalie Jake Allen is scheduled to start for the Blues. ... This is the annual Father’s trip for the Predators, who play at Carolina on Sunday.