Skip to Main Content

Early jump on Isles leads Preds to fifth straight win

by Dan Rosen
UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The Predators showed up on time for Monday's holiday matinee at Nassau Coliseum. The Islanders forgot they weren't allowed to take Martin Luther King Day off until it was too late.

Nashville jumped out to a three-goal lead before 12 minutes elapsed in the first period and then let goalie Pekka Rinne do the rest to finish off a 3-1 victory. Rinne made 36 saves, and stopped 30 of 31 shots over the final two periods despite not having All-Star defenseman Ryan Suter in front of him.

The Predators have won five straight games and eight of their last nine. They're 14-4 since Dec. 8, when their previous five-game winning streak started, and are holding strong in sixth place in the Western Conference standings.

"We were really inconsistent early on in the year. We played three or four good games and three or four poor games," Nashville captain Shea Weber said. "The level of dropoff isn't as much right now. We're not quite as consistent as we want to be, as good as we want to be, but it's getting there."

Kevin Poulin, who was making his second start of the season, made 29 saves as the Islanders lost for the fourth time in the last six games. John Tavares scored the Islanders' lone goal with 3:58 to play in the third period to extend his point-scoring streak to nine games.

The Predators, though, scored on their first two shots of the game and on three of their first six.

"You can't blame the goalie," Islanders captain Mark Streit said. "The guys in front of him just weren't ready to play the first 20 minutes."

Nashville's early 3-0 lead on goals by Sergei Kostitsyn, Matt Halischuk and David Legwand made not having Suter for the final two periods at least a bit easier to stomach.

Suter was questionable prior to the game with an upper-body injury. He dressed, but after playing 10 shifts totaling 7:04 in the first period, he did not return. Perhaps not coincidentally, the Islanders pressured the Predators hard in the second period and finished with 19 shots on goal.

Nashville, though, still had a full complement of defensemen since coach Barry Trotz dressed seven for the game, including ex-Islander Jack Hillen.

"He's such a good pro," Trotz said of Hillen, who played 16 shifts for 13:27 of ice time. "I said, 'You might have to play a couple of shifts on the wing, and he goes, 'Whatever you want from me, I'm there for you. I'm just excited I'm back on the Island and in the lineup.' He even said, 'You don't have to put me in the lineup,' but I wanted to put him in the lineup a little for precautionary reasons -- but at the same time, he played here."

Kostitsyn gave Nashville the 1-0 lead at the 2:17 mark of the first period with his third goal in as many games. Halischuk made it 2-0 with an unassisted goal off a rush down the right side just over three minutes later. Legwand then finished off a pretty passing play for his 13th goal of the season 11:37 into the period.

The Nashville players wouldn't elaborate on the scouting report they got on Poulin from goalie coach Mitch Korn, but it was clearly to shoot high. Kostitsyn and Halischuk both beat Poulin with high shots, the former over his glove and the latter over his blocker.

Kostitsyn was allowed to both skate untouched into the area just above the hash marks and fire an uncontested shot.

"He got over the blue line pretty easy, without getting pressured, and he has a good wrist shot," Streit said of Kostitsyn. "He had a lane and, you know, the kid (Poulin) didn't play for a week and it's his second game this year in the NHL. It's unfortunate. We have to play better, and especially have a better start in front of him."

Halischuk took the puck away from Steve Staios at the far blue line and raced in down the right side, dashing to the net in time to get off a shot that beat Poulin high on the far side.

Poulin had no chance to stop Legwand's tap-in as he was on the other side, challenging Martin Erat, who instead of shooting found Legwand dashing to the net from the left side.

Erat started the play with a diagonal pass to Legwand on the left side. Legwand dropped it back for Colin Wilson and started his way to the net. Wilson found Erat in the right circle, and then Erat found Legwand at the left post for the tap-in.

"It was Colin Wilson who made a good play coming off the bench there," Legwand said. "He gave me a yell and a holler and he came off hard, and he was ready. It was an easy drop pass and then he moved it down to Marty. Marty found me across and it was pretty much an empty net there. It's a tough play for them to handle, a 3-on-2."

The Islanders finally started to push late in the first period, but Rinne made three saves over the final three-and-a-half minutes, including one during a New York power play.

New York also had a chance to get back in the game midway through the second period with a 70-second 5-on-3, but the Predators killed it off thanks to blocked shots by Shea Weber and Nick Spaling. Tavares also missed an empty net on a wide-open one-timer.

Nashville blocked four shots over the entire special-teams sequence and Rinne made four saves to preserve the 3-0 lead.

"That was a huge kill," Trotz said. "I mean, it was a bad penalty by us, but a really huge kill."

The Islanders continued to pressure late in the second period with five shots in the final two minutes, but Rinne was perfect. He stayed that way until Tavares finally solved him with 3:58 to play.

It was too late.

"In a matinee game, it's different and nobody is used to it, so you have to be even more concentrated at the drop of the puck," Streit said. "We weren't. We had a slow start and we paid for it."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

View More