NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Nashville Predators have struggled to generate goals this season. Fortunately for them, Pekka Rinne doesn’t give up many, either.
Rinne made 19 saves for his second consecutive shutout, leading the Predators to a 3-0 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday night.
Gabriel Bourque, Nick Spaling and Mike Fisher had the Nashville goals. Rinne has shutouts in three of his past four starts and has not allowed a goal in his last 137 minutes, 41 seconds of action.
“Especially the last two games, I thought the first periods, he allowed us to win the games,” Predators coach Barry Trotz said. “Anytime that you are going to have impact in a game, those top players, those great players in the league have impact when you are not stabilized.”
Bourque scored the game’s first goal at 2:40 of the third period.
With the Predators on a power play, Martin Erat sent a wrist shot from the right boards toward the net. With his back facing Coyotes goalie Mike Smith, Bourque deflected Erat’s shot with his right skate. After making contact with Bourque’s skate, the puck trickled across the goal line on Smith’s stick side.
“It was a tight game. You thought the first team that scored was going to have a big advantage, and that’s exactly how it turned out,” Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. “We had some opportunities, actually had some good setup time, but the pucks we were getting to the net weren’t dangerous pucks.”
Spaling added an insurance goal at 9:38 of the third.
Matt Halischuk won a battle for the puck in the right corner and found Spaling at the right faceoff dot. From there, Spaling beat Smith with a wrist shot tucked just underneath the crossbar on the short side.
“I got a nice pass from Hali there,” Spaling said. “I was shooting high and there was a little bit of a hole.”
Fisher concluded the scoring with his second of the season at 18:16.
Phoenix had its best chance of the game just more than 3 minutes into the opening period.
With all but one Predators player caught in the offensive zone, all five Coyotes on the ice drove into the Nashville zone on an unusual 5-on-1 break. Ex-Predator Steve Sullivan sent a wrist shot on goal, but Rinne was able to glove the puck and force a faceoff.
“I thought we had a really good first period, really kind of set the pace, but they bounced back and had a really good second,” Sullivan said. “We thought we had hung around long enough for a good road win and come out with a good third period, but they got a lucky break on the power-play goal. They got some confidence from that and we couldn’t recover.”
Rinne later denied Sullivan on a backhander at 16:06 of the third with the Predators holding a two-goal lead.
“I think right now I am just getting results,” Rinne said. “I am feeling good, but the team in front of me, they are playing so good.”
Sullivan played his first game in Nashville since leaving the Predators following the 2011 playoffs. In parts of six seasons with Nashville, Sullivan played 317 regular-season games, scoring 100 goals and adding 163 assists.
He was awarded the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy in 2009 following his return after missing nearly two full years of action with a back injury.
During the game’s first media timeout, the Predators played a highlight video of Sullivan’s time in Nashville. At the conclusion of the video, Sullivan stood up and waved to the applauding crowd.
NOTES: The Predators outshot their opponent for just the second time this season. … Erat played his 700th career game, all with Nashville. … Phoenix D Derek Morris sustained an upper-body injury in the first period and did not return.