The Toronto Maple Leafs
did almost everything right in Nashville on Thursday night -- except win. For that, they can blame Pekka Rinne
Nashville's star goaltender made 38 saves and Martin Erat
scored twice as the Predators (10-5-3) beat the Leafs 4-1 for their fifth win in seven games.
assisted on three of the four goals, matching his career high for points in a game. He and linemates Erat and Mike Fisher
are all healthy again after missing time with injuries -- and not surprisingly, the Predators are showing more offensive spark.
"We are playing much better than before,'' Kostitsyn said. "We have all come back from injury and needed a couple of games to get better."
The Leafs, making only their fourth trip ever to Bridgestone Arena, lost for the fifth time in six games. They also lost two more players with injuries. Forward Matthew Lombardi, who played just two games last season with the Preds before suffering a season-ending concussion, left the game with an apparent shoulder or arm injury in the second period and did not return. Defenseman Mike Komisarek
left early in the third after blocking a shot. With Mikhail Grabovski
and Clarke MacArthur
lost due to injury in Tuesday’s home loss to Phoenix, the Leafs had just 11 skaters on the bench for much of the final 20 minutes.
Erat gave the Predators a 1-0 lead just 5:48 into the game with his fourth goal in four games, converting Fisher's pass from the goal line to the right of Ben Scrivens
tied it at 10:36 of the second. With the Maple Leafs on a power play and both teams on a line change, Liles picked up the puck at center ice and drove down the right side before beating Rinne with a wrist shot from the circle.
That was all the offense the Leafs could manage despite outshooting Nashville 39-22.
"That might be the best game we've played all season," Leafs coach Ron Wilson said. "To be honest with you, start to finish, their goalie came up huge.
"He's one of the best goalies, he was up for the Vezina, but we did our best and he was up to task."
Nashville regained the lead less than two minutes later when Ryan Suter
's shot from the left side through traffic beat a screened Scrivens. It was his fourth of the season -- matching his total in each of the past two seasons.
Suter and defense partner Shea Weber
both went plus-4, but said much of the credit for the win belongs to Rinne.
"Tonight was one of those nights where they couldn't get much going, and we took advantage of some of their turnovers and mistakes," Suter said. "Everyone is playing better. Everyone is coming back hard and playing hard in the 'D' zone, and Pekks is standing on his head for us."
Erat made it 3-1 at 2:05 of the third by firing a cross-ice pass from Fisher behind Scrivens to complete a 2-on-1 break.
"We are good on the forecheck and are just creating chances," Erat said. "We are playing good defense against the other team's top line and then getting pucks to the net."
After rookie Craig Smith
missed his chance at an empty-netter by firing high with the puck in the crease, Matt Halischuk
hit the empty net with 23 seconds left to seal the win.
Wilson had no gripe with his team's performance, especially considering the lack of available bodies.
"The bench was really short by the end of the game but I thought we played really well," he said. "I thought we dominated most parts of the game. There is nothing you can do, just play on and whoever we bring up or guys who aren't playing get in the lineup we'll do our best."
Material from team media and wire services was used in this report