The Nashville Predators played their best game of the season in shutting out the Chicago Blackhawks 2-0 Thursday night at the Sommet Center. It was the first time this season that the Preds played one of their trademark games of solid defense, great goaltending, and just enough offense to come out on top.
Pekka Rinne was the games first star, stopping all 22 Chicago shots and winning for the second night in a row. He was helped by a swarming defense that cleared pucks from the Preds zone consistently all evening.
About his improved play Rinne said, “The last week or so, I’ve been feeling a little better. Every time you don’t let in goals, it’s going to build up your confidence. That’s what I needed now. It’s been a tough start for me, and for now things look a little better for me and the team.”
Rinne also gave credit to the defense, “Whenever there was a loose puck, our D would jump on it right away and it was easier for me that way.”
Pekka also commented on the fans, “Every time you jump on the ice here, you think about the fans. You play this game for the fans. It’s our home and you want to win those games and keep those fans coming to the building and winning the games is a huge part of that.”
Joel Ward provided all the offense that was needed when he redirected a Francis Bouillon shot at a 90 degree angle at 14:53 in the second period for a power play goal. It was Ward’s first goal of the season and he seemed relieved after the game to finally get the proverbial monkey off his back.
Ward pointed to better team play in the last week.
“We are all coming together really good,” Ward noted. “We never really doubted ourselves at all, we were just coming up short in a few games. We’ve been sticking together pretty good and with a little luck we’ve been sticking to the game plan and I think we will be alright.”
Jerred Smithson added a short handed empty netter with four seconds left in the contest to seal the deal for the Predators.
Barry Trotz was pleased with the effort and noted the the Preds “had won three of the last four so we are making some strides.” Further he said, :We are really pleased with this effort, last night we got in late after a tough game in Minney and there was a lot of fighting the dog today.”
He pointed to keys to the game, “They really went to the net hard, they battled, had lots of chances.”
The Predators had the majority of their 28 shots for the game on the power play with 18 coming on the man advantage. Trotz has emphasized needing more shots on the power play.
About his team’s effort, he stated, “You can’t get too fancy about pretty plays, you keep pounding pucks, making good solid decisions, going to the hard areas and scoring goals and that’s how you have to do it.”
A new injury appeared on Thursday with Mary Erat being a late scratch due to a “lower body injury” that was sustained in Minnesota. This is in addition to the ongoing injuries to Jason Arnott (upper body) and Jordin Tootoo (hip flexor).
Trotz further commented, “We’ve had a lot of injuries to key people. We’ve been sort of piecemealing it and we have a lot of adversity and are fighting through it.”
The Preds return to the ice at the Sommet on Saturday for the third meeting of the month with Dallas. The Preds will have the opportunity to fight back to the .500 mark with a win over the Stars before heading to the West coast for a four-game road trip.
Complete postgame videos available at PredsOnTheGlass.com