NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Pittsburgh Penguins needed a boost to snap a three-game skid. They got it from Tanner Glass, who blocked shot after shot after shot by Nashville Predators captain Shea Weber.
Glass got in front of five shots, Matt Niskanen scored his second goal of the game 7:29 into the third period, and the Penguins beat the Predators 3-1 on Tuesday night.
“We saw Tanner Glass come up with some huge blocks in the first period on Shea Weber,” Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma said. “Three in a row on probably the hardest shot in the league taking those, and they did a great job and again we stuck with it. … I thought we got a great win for our team.”
Glass said his job is to be in the lane when Weber is trying to shoot on the power play. Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury said the blocked shots off the stick of the Predators defenceman provided a lift similar to a big goal or a fight.
“You know it’s coming hard and heavy,” Fleury said of Weber’s shot. “But (Glass) still goes and makes the save. My hat goes off to him.”
The Penguins helped ruin the return of Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne in his first game since Oct. 22 following an E. coli infection in his surgically repaired left hip. Niskanen’s winning goal came during a power play. The NHL’s best unit went 1 for 5 with the man advantage.
Sidney Crosby found Niskanen for a slap shot that went under Rinne’s glove.
“He’s a really good goalie, and he is very tough to beat,” Niskanen said. “It was a really great effort by us. A lot of guys did well, and it was a good team effort.”
Chris Kunitz scored a goal, and Crosby had three assists to add to his NHL-leading point total. The Penguins have not lost more than three straight this season, and this win sets them up for the final three games on their longest road trip this season.
Patric Hornqvist scored for Nashville, which has lost two consecutive games.
Rinne made 16 saves in his return. He had surgery on his hip on May 9 and needed a second operation because of the infection on Oct. 24. He rejoined the Predators on Monday after stopping 33 of 35 shots in a two-game conditioning stint in Milwaukee.
“It’s great to be back,” Rinne said. “It’s been a pretty long time so it means a lot to me to be able to be back, play at home, and the fans have been great to me. It made me feel really good but still we lost the game and that’s tough to take.”
Fans welcomed him back with a huge roar during introductions and chanted his name after his first big save. Crosby sent a cross-ice pass to Kunitz that Rinne blocked by sticking out his right pad. The two-time Vezina Trophy finalist stopped Kunitz again on a breakaway later in the first period.
Nashville thought it had a 1-0 lead when Paul Gaustad had the puck go off his right shin past Fleury off a rebound of a shot by Nick Spaling. But after a long review, officials disallowed the goal because of a distinct kicking motion by Gaustad.
“They called it a goal on the ice,” Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. “I looked at it, and there was a motion but it was more of a stopping motion to me. (He) is trying to run to the net and not run over the goalie.”
The Penguins scored first when Crosby skated around the net and found Niskanen in the right circle for a one-timer that squeezed between Rinne and the post 27 seconds into the second. Nashville answered 12 seconds later as Hornqvist’s wrister off a rebound beat Fleury.
Pittsburgh sealed the win when Crosby fed Kunitz in the slot for a slap shot with 17:05 left. It was the 28th goal this season for Kunitz and the 200th of his career, giving the large contingent of Penguins’ fans plenty to celebrate.
NOTES: Penguins forward Chuck Kobasew played his 600th NHL game after being placed on waivers Monday. … Pittsburgh has killed 12 straight penalties over four consecutive road games. … Predators coach Barry Trotz is 6-3-1 in Nashville against the Penguins. … Hornqvist has two goals and four assists in his last eight games.