Pekka Rinne was phenomenal making a career-best 40 saves, including stops on three breakaway chances for the Panthers, but it was not enough as the Predators were unable to solve Tomas Vokoun as Florida shutout Nashville 3-0 on Tuesday night in Sunrise, Florida. Vokoun finished with 27 saves on the night. Rinne made 31 stops through the first two periods alone, 15 in the first frame and 16 in the second.
Michael Frolik netted a pair of goals to lead the Panthers, including the game-winning goal late in the second period and an empty net tally with 13.2 seconds left in regulation to close out the scoring. Cory Stillman netted the other Florida goal.
The line of Martin Erat-Vernon Fiddler-Rich Peverley was dangerous through the first two periods for Nashville, generating four quality scoring chances through the first 40 minutes of play, starting with a post by Peverley early in the first period.
Rinne made several key saves early in the first period to keep the game scoreless. Just 3:28 into the game he robbed Richard Zednik after Zednik made a nifty move from the wing to cut to the front of the net. He denied Stephen Weiss on a chance 5:21 into the game and a little over a minute later stoned Ville Peltonen on a breakaway and subsequent rebound attempt.
The Predators may have had the two best scoring chances of the period, though. Peverley made a great move down the left wing 4:22 into the game, before cutting across the center slot to bring Vokoun sliding right to left. Peverley snapped a low shot across the grain that rang off the inside of the post. Shea Weber then rang a shot off the post from the slot with 5:38 remaining in the opening period.
The Preds were out-shot 17-6 in the middle period, but due to Rinne's heroics, the game remained tied until the 6:48 mark of the second frame, when Florida opened the scoring created on a play off an odd-man rush. Rinne denied the initial three-on-two, but with a Panthers forward crashing the side of the net, Rinne lost his stick. Before Rinne was able to grab his stick, Nick Boynton retrieved the loose puck in the corner and hit Michael Frolik with a cross-ice pass alone in the far face-off circle. Frolik snapped home the shot for his fourth goal of the season.
Frolik had a chance to extend the Panthers lead three and half minutes later with a breakaway, but Rinne made the big save to keep the Preds within one.
The Predators controlled the action for most of the opening moments of the third period, but were unable to get the equalizer. Jason Arnott had a chance in front 56 seconds into the frame, but missed wide. David Legwand had a shorthanded opportunity off a three-on-two rush, but Vokoun stayed with the deke move and made a stick save from in close. Joel Ward had a dangerous chance at the left wing post, 5:34 into the frame off a great pass from Dan Hamhuis from the point. Then Ryan Suter had a pair of chances on a power-play around a minute after Ward’s chance.
Following their power-play, the Preds took a pair of penalties, but the PK unit killed both, including 26 seconds of three-on-five. The Panthers would claim a 2-0 lead late in regulation when Greg Zanon’s pass attempt from the point was blocked and turned into a breakaway for Zednik. Rinne again robbed Zednik with a sprawling pad save, but the Predators defense failed to pick up Stillman trailing the play and Zednik followed the rebound and centered the puck to Stillman for his seventh goal of the season.