Pekka Rinne picked up his sixth shutout of the season and Nick Spaling had two goals and that was all Nashville needed to beat Minnesota 4-0 and move past the Wild into ninth place in the tightly bunched Western Conference.
Rinne faced only nine shots in the first two periods and 19 for the game in another solid performance as he continues to make his case for the Hart Trophy as MVP for the Predators.
“It was a huge team effort,” explained Rinne. “It was a nice game for myself, not too many saves. It was a little different than what we usually play, all those one goal games when it is so tight.”
Spaling has had two goal games twice this year, both against Minnesota.
“I don’t think so, it was just a lot of good plays tonight,” he said. “Smitty [Jerred Smithson] made a nice play to me and so did Webs so there’s not much to say, I’m just happy to get some goals.”
The Predators other goals came from Joel Ward, who scored in his second straight game, and and Martin Erat. David Legwand had a pair of assists for a two point outing.
“I was a little worried this morning,” said Preds coach Barry Trotz, who was pleased with his team’s victory. “We didn’t seem to have a lot of juice, but we came out with really good focus.”
Trotz’s main focus is on gathering points at this juncture of the campaign. “We got points in five of our last six games,” he said. “We just have to collect points. How you do it, we don’t really care.”
The Predators had an explosive opening period and appeared to catch the Wild flat-footed at the game began. Just 3:13 into the game, with the Predators pressuring Wild goaltender Niklas Backstrom, Legwand fed a pass from behind the Wild net to Ward who sent it directly into the net for a quick 1-0 Preds lead.
Forty-eight seconds later, with similar pressure on Backstrom, Jerred Smithson fed the puck to Spaling in the slot who rang up another goal to give the Preds a 2-0 lead. At 12:32, Ward put a shot on net and Erat found the puck before him in blue ice and he beat Backstrom to it and flipped it into the net to make it 3-0 Predators.
In the opening period, the Preds out shot the Wild 15-5 in one to Nashville’s most offensively charged efforts that the Bridgestone Arena crowd has seen in a while.
For everything the first period was, the second period wasn’t. The Predators held the Wild to four shots while taking only nine themselves. It appeared that the team target of three goals every night was enough to satisfy the team for the evening as it seemed that they went into a shutdown mode much earlier than usual.
The final period was a continuation of the defense first strategy for the Preds. At 14:59, Spaling scored his second goal of the game on a feed from behind the net from Shea Weber . Minnesota out shot the Predators 10-7 in the third as they were desperately trying to catch up.
The Predators recalled Teemu Laakso before the game as they were unsure if Kevin Klein would be able to play. Klein was able to go an skated 23 shifts and played 19:20 minutes and showed no signs of his foot injury.
Mike Fisher left the game with 16:20 left in the third period but Trotz indicated that he was fine and with a 3-0 lead there was no need to leave him in.
The victory took the Predators to 78 points and moved them into ninth place, one point behind the eighth place Los Angeles Kings. The Predators will continue their five-game homestand with a visit from the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday night.