Playing one of their best games of the season, the Nashville Predators–behind the stellar goaltending of Pekka Rinne–shutout the Detroit Red Wings Saturday night, 3-0. It was Rinne’s fourth shutout of the year as he stopped all 35 Red Wing shots. He lowered his microscopic statistics a few more notches as he is second in the league in goals against average (2.04) and save percentage (.931).
“It was a huge team effort,” Rinne said. “We knew we were in a tough spot. We had lost four games in a row and it was time to turn it around. We did what we had to do and executed at a pretty high level and then obviously special teams, especially the PK, are our strength and they did a great job again tonight,”
The offensive star of the game was Sergei Kostitsyn who scored an incredible short-handed goal in the second period and another one that buried any chance of a Wings comeback with 2:21 left in the third.
“That was a great pass by [Ryan] Suter,” Kostitsyn said about his shorthanded goal. “It was almost a breakaway so I tried to shoot at the net with one hand and it deflect from the goalie stick and went in.”
Shea Weber had the other goal just 3:18 into the contest on a power play that set the tone for the evening, while Suter had a pair of assists.
Another key to the game was the play of the Predator’s special teams. The Predators penalty kill was a perfect five-for-five on the evening and killed a five-on-three just 44 seconds into the second period which really built confidence for the team. The team was able to get goals on both the power play as well as their third shorthanded goal of the season.
Steve Sullivan played his first game since December 23. He said that he felt fine but was more focused on the matter at hand.
“We’ve got to try to catch these guys in the standings,” Sully said. “If we don’t win tonight, you don’t want to say never, but it would have been extremely tough. Now we are right back into arms length. If we keep playing good hockey, that’s our goal is to catch Detroit.”
“It’s a big game for them, big game for us,” added Preds coach Barry Trotz. “They lost last night and we were fortunate that they played last night. It was a back to back game so we were fortunate there. They came with a lot of detail in their game and played hard.”
The Predators pulled within five points of the Red Wings in the Central Division race and remain in fourth place in the Western Conference standings.
It was the Predators’ eighth sell out of the season and was probably the most memorable night ever for fans in attendance at the Bridgestone Arena. Rock legend Alice Cooper joined Vince Gill and the house band, Sixwire, for a set during the first intermission that electrified the crowd. Cooper met with Trotz after the game and made the rounds in the Predators dressing room which was a thrill for the players, most of whom weren’t born when Cooper was in his heyday.
The Predators will take Sunday off and return to the ice for morning skate on Monday to prepare for a 7 p.m. contest with the Edmonton Oilers at Bridgestone Arena.