NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Pekka Rinne didn’t expect to even start for the Nashville Predators, let alone pitch a shutout against the Minnesota Wild.
Nashville’s plans changed Saturday morning when regular starter Dan Ellis took a puck off of his knee. Rinne got the call for the third straight game hours later and made 32 saves in a 1-0 win over the Wild.
J.P. Dumont’s third-period goal stood up as the winner.
Rinne won his sixth game of the season and earned his second shutout in December, following his 2-0 road victory over Buffalo on Monday. His 6-0 mark ties Ellis for the best start by a Predators goaltender.
“They told me during the morning skate that I was going to start,” Rinne said. “It was a normal game day for me.”
Rinne deflected much of the credit to his teammates, especially defenceman Greg Zanon who blocked six shots.
“It’s awesome to have two shutouts, but it also says something about the whole team and our team defence,” Rinne said. “I feel totally comfortable, but it is never just the goalie. The guys are doing a great job in front of me. That’s makes it a lot easier for me.”
The game was a stark contrast to the Predators’ 6-2 loss to the Wild last Saturday. The Predators gave up five power-play goals in that loss, but committed only four penalties this time.
“Obviously, the last time we played Minnesota we gave them a lot of opportunities,” Predators coach Barry Trotz said. “They had 12 chances in that game and eight of them were on the power play.
“I don’t think we did anything different defensively this time. It really comes down to discipline. We are able to use our assets better when we aren’t sitting in the penalty box. In our last three games we have really cut down on the useless penalties we were taking.”
The Predators have won their last three games and have points in six of seven (5-1-1). Nashville outshot Minnesota 18-4 in the scoreless first period.
“I thought it was as sound a period as we have played all year, especially against a real good team like Minnesota,” Trotz said. “I think the chances were eight or nine to three in the first period. The thing Minnesota does well is that they don’t give you a lot of second or third chances.”
With approximately nine minutes left in the second period both teams threatened to score, but Rinne and Wild counterpart Josh Harding each made a pair of key saves.
“It was a strange game,” Dumont said. “Minnesota came in here and played the kind of game they wanted. It was kind of like the game we played in Buffalo. It was kind of boring. Nothing was going on. We had a lot of good shots, but nothing really in the slot or in the danger zones.”
Dumont changed that when he broke the deadlock 10:48 into the third. Jason Arnott passed the puck into the slot to Dumont, who sent a shot in off Harding’s glove. Harding made 42 saves.
“They tried to play back,” Dumont said. “It was hard for us to create much. We did have a lot of great scoring chances but Harding made some big saves. We will take the big two points.”
It was the second game in two nights for the Wild, but they refused to use that as an excuse.
“We’re not getting a lot of chances,” Wild coach Jacques Lemaire said. “We’re not getting a lot of pucks at the net. When we do, we’re looking for rebounds, but we’re not getting to the puck and getting that second shot.
“I thought our second and third periods were really good, but their goalie was solid and we couldn’t get any goals.”
Trotz said Ellis was day to day. He expected him to be ready to serve as the backup on Monday at St. Louis and thought he could start against Tuesday against Vancouver.
“It was a charley-horse type of effect,” Trotz said of Ellis’ injury. “That is something a goaltender can’t play with. It has been a good start for Pekka. Now we have both goaltenders doing really well.”
Notes: Rinne is the only undefeated NHL goalie who has played in at least two games. … This was the 600th game in Wild history. … Harding earned his first win of the season against Nashville in last week’s victory. … Predators forward Martin Erat hasn’t scored in 10 games and has only one point in his last six.