ST. PAUL, Minn. – Relegated to backup status, Dan Ellis showed he can still be counted on in the final two months of the season.
Ellis made 22 saves for a shutout in his first start in nearly three weeks, leading the Nashville Predators to a 2-0 victory over the Minnesota Wild on Friday night. Jason Arnott and David Legwand scored to help the Predators win their fourth straight and fifth in six games since the all-star break. Nashville’s last four-game winning streak was Feb. 24-March 3, 2007.
The Wild lost for the first time in three games.
Ellis, who started the season as Nashville’s top goalie, had not played since being pulled from a Jan. 17 start after allowing three goals on his first four shots. Pekka Rinne started the last six games, and has emerged as the No. 1 goalie.
“You play the sport to play in games, and not just be a practice target,” Ellis said. “You always hope for opportunities to play again and when you get those opportunities you need to go out there, play your best and give them a reason to keep you in the net.”
Ellis said his mind-set entering the game was that he had nothing to lose.
“I’d already lost my spot, so what else do you got,” Ellis said. “I figured I’d just go out there and enjoy it. I hadn’t played a full game in a long time, and that’s what you really enjoy. My goal tonight was to have fun, relax and not worry about the outcome.”
Ellis, 0-4 with a 4.54 goals-against average and an .837 save percentage in his previous five starts, was fortunate early to earn his third shutout of the season.
Mikko Koivu just missed the net from in front, and Marek Zidlicky tipped a cross-ice pass wide, both in the opening minute. Ellis rebounded from a collision with Shea Weber to scramble back to stop James Sheppard less than five minutes later.
Minnesota, blanked 1-0 by Rinne in Nashville on Dec. 6, provided little firepower thereafter, going shotless for the final half of the opening period, and managing just five second-period shots. The Wild’s first third-period shot came in the eighth minute.
“Lets face it, we had four scoring chances,” Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire said. “How’s that for a game? If anybody feels that we played good, we worked, but if they say we played well, we can’t play good with four chances.”
Ellis’ best save was sliding across the crease to stop Cal Clutterbuck on a 2-on-1 with 4:25 to play.
“It’s tough for goalies to find their groove. With the two goaltenders going now, it’s good competition back there,” Legwand said. “It’s good to have confidence in both those guys.”
The Predators have scored more than two goals in a game twice in their last 11 contests, but Nashville killed off four short-handed situations, and was perfect on the penalty kill for the 12th time in 13 games.
“It doesn’t matter,” coach Barry Trotz said. “We’ve been fortunate they have only scored one even-strength goal against us in three games. As long as we can hold the fort in terms of keeping their power play off the board, I think that gives us a good chance to win.”
Arnott scored midway through the second period.
Staying below the goal-line, J.P. Dumont skated out of the right corner and fed Arnott, whose one-timer from edge of the slot beat Niklas Backstrom on the far side. Three defenders were standing around Arnott, who scored in the third straight game.
The goal came 30 seconds after the Predators killed off a 1:36 two-man disadvantage, where Nashville defenders limited the Wild to just one shot in the 5-on-3 situation and one other playing 5-on-4.
“Of course it upsets us a little when we don’t score, but you can’t lose your focus on stuff like that. I don’t think that was the case, though,” right wing Antti Miettinen said.
Legwand scored early in the third, when his wrist shot went off Backstrom’s glove and trickled into the net.
“That’s a shot I need to have,” Backstrom said. “I need to be there for the team.”
Notes: Minnesota is 1-7-1 in their last nine games against an opponent that played the night before. … Nashville was the last team to post two straight shutouts against the Wild, doing so Jan. 19 and Feb. 26, 2004. … Lemaire coached his 1,100th regular-season game. … Nashville RW Wade Belak missed his third straight game because of a shoulder injury. … The Predators annual Dads’ Trip began Friday and continues Sunday in Dallas.