Pekka Rinne made 32 saves for his second shutout of the week to backstop the Predators to a 1-0 win over the Minnesota Wild at the Sommet Center on Saturday night. J.P. Dumont broke a scoreless tie with 9:12 remaining in the third period for the game’s lone goal, Dumont’s second game-winning goal of the season. With the win the Predators improved to 5-1-1 in their last seven games, including 3-0-0 in the month of December, holding opponents to two or fewer goals in five times in those seven games.
Joel Ward drew a power-play opportunity with 11:15 left in regulation with strong work in front of the net, forcing Kim Johnsson to take a tripping call to prevent a quality scoring chance for Ward. As the power-play was coming to a close, Jason Arnott ripped a shot from the right wing. Josh Harding made the save through traffic and Martin Erat’s rebound attempt was blocked, but Predators quickly reorganized and Arnott fed J.P. Dumont a pass in the center slot as the power-play expired. Dumont snapped a shot that pinged under the crossbar and in the net, Dumont’s sixth goal of the season and second game-winner.
Rinne, who only started because Dan Ellis got nicked up during morning skate earlier in the day, was sharp throughout the game including a save on Patrice Bergeron with under one second remaining in the game. Rinne has opened the month of December with three wins in three games, turning aside 81 of 83 shots in the process, a .976 save percentage and a 0.67 goals against average.
The Predators got off to a strong start with a pair of good penalty kills in the game’s first 10 minutes. Late in the period the Preds had four good offensive flurries including a backhand attempt by Dumont from in tight and a pair of rebound whacks by Radek Bonk with a scrum in front of the Minnesota net.
The line of Arnott-Dumont-Ward started to assert itself in the second period. Arnott and Ward combined for a quality chance in the first minute of the period. The trio created dangerous chances on most of their shifts in the middle period and finished the game with eight shots on goal and another six shots attempted. The line also drew the penalties that led to two of Nashville’s three power-play chances.
With tonight's win the Predators moved a season-high 4 games above .500 ... The Predators have allowed just 1 even strength goal in their last 4 games ... J.P. Dumont extending his scoring streak to 4 games (2g, 3a) ... Shea Weber has 7 points in his last 7 games (3g-4a) ... The Predators are 4-1-0 since acquiring Wade Belak from Florida on Thanksgiving Day ... Kevin Klein made his first appearance since Nov. 8 at Colorado and skated 12:12 with 1 shot on goal.
Post-Game Quotes: Head Coach Barry Trotz On the defense cutting down quality scoring chances over the last few games…
“First off, we’ve been a lot more disciplined. Most teams are going to get a lot of their chances on the power play. Obviously the last time we played Minnesota we gave them a lot of opportunities there. They actually only had 12 chances last game, but eight of them were on the power play. We’ve been pretty good defensively. I don’t think there’s anything that we’ve done different. It really comes down to discipline. That allows us to play our whole lineup. We are able to use our assets better when we aren’t sitting in the penalty box. I think we’re a harder team to play and the chances against us are down. We have really cut down the useless penalties we were taking.”
On playing Minnesota…
"Against a team like Minnesota you have to play a very patient game and a very deliberate game. It doesn’t matter who they have in their lineup they are hard to play against. They don’t allow you to trade chances and they play a very calculated and smart game. We played them the wrong way last Saturday. We were undisciplined and took too many penalties. You have to execute. You have to get through their neutral zone and go through the proper routes. They have great sticks and they’re on their toes. They hold their lines really well. We were trying to force things too much last Saturday and it blew up in our face.”
On the shots the Predators took…
“We had some good chances tonight. The thing Minnesota does well is they don’t give you a lot of second or third chances. I think the chances were eight or nine to three in the first period. I thought it was as sound a period as we have played all year, especially a real good team like Minnesota.”
On Pekka Rinne’s play…
“I am really happy for Pekka. He was told at morning skate Dan Ellis was going to start. But Dan took a puck in the knee and it’s had a charlie-horse type of effect. That’s something a goaltender can’t play with. It was a good start for Pekka and now we have both goaltenders doing really well.”
Forward Joel Ward On being able to draw two big penalties…
“Playing with J.P. and Arnott has been a big thrill for myself. I am just trying to contribute, work hard and get those loose pucks to find them in the slot. I was fortunate to draw a penalty in the end. We were able to capitalize. It is always a good feeling to contribute in some way.”
On playing on a dangerous line with Arnott…
“You try not to think about it too much. You try not to be star-struck as well. You try to go out there and work as hard as you can. I just try to stay positive when I am out there on the ice. You listen to them, get information from them and try to get open.”
On playing against his former team…
“It was in the past. I try not to think about it and just move forward. I know quite a few guys on their team. However, I try to treat it as another game and not make it too personal. You obviously recognize it is your former team so you like to get two points.”
Goaltender Pekka Rinne On his comfort level improving with more games under his belt…
“I feel comfortable. Guys are a great job in front of me. It makes it a lot easier for me. I do feel comfortable.”
On having two shutouts so close together…
“It is awesome but it also tells something about the whole team with the defense. It is never just the goalie. It means a job well done, other than that I am just happy with the two points.”
Forward J.P. Dumont On the change in this game vs. Minnesota since the last one…
“We try to play a lot more disciplined for sure. I don’t mind our penalty kill, we are doing a great job. We have one of the best penalty kill units in the league. If we give them 14-16 minutes a game, they are going to get tired. It is tough to play 5-on-5 after that and get back in the game. Tonight we had a few penalties that we have to be more careful about. Our PK was huge again tonight.”
On first period with so many chances…
“It was a strange game. Minnesota came in tonight and played the kind of game that they wanted to play. It was similar to our game in Buffalo. It was boring a little bit, as nothing was going on. We had a lot of good chances. There was nothing really in the slot or in the danger zones. They had played last night and tried to play all back. It was hard for us to create much. We did have a lot of great scoring chances. He made some big saves. But we will take the big two points.”
1 - 0 NSH
Interference - Goalkeeper