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Rinne's 30 saves leads Preds to 3-0 win at Montreal

by Arpon Basu

MONTREAL -- There's something about the Montreal Canadiens that brings out the best in Pekka Rinne.

Rinne was perfect with 30 saves and Marcel Goc scored twice as the Nashville Predators won in regulation for the first time in nearly a month by beating the Canadiens 3-0 on Thursday at the Bell Centre.

Rinne earned his second shutout of the season. It came over a year after he blanked the Canadiens 2-0 in Nashville last Nov. 14.

"It's a funny stat, I guess," Rinne said. "But it's a credit to this team. We had 55 shots on goal in that game last year and we played well again tonight. These are a huge two points against one of the top teams in the League."

Cal O'Reilly also scored and former Canadien Francis Bouillon had two assists in his return to Montreal for the Predators (8-6-3), who last won in regulation time on Oct. 24 in Tampa Bay. The Predators had two shootout wins and six regulation losses since.

Bouillon was warmly received by the sellout crowd of 21,273, one that normally boos former Canadiens making their return to the city -- as they did for Predators forward Sergei Kostitsyn nearly every time he touched the puck.

But Bouillon got a big round of applause when he was named the game's third star.

"That was a very emotional moment," Bouillon said. "To get a star and get that reaction from the fans, it's very appreciated."

Carey Price was in goal the last time Rinne shutout the Canadiens and made 53 saves in the loss. He wasn't nearly as busy in this game, making 27 stops.

The loss snapped a four-game winning streak for the Canadiens (12-6-1) as they were shutout for the third time this year - all by the same score.

"I can accept losing when we have a strong effort, but we weren't good enough in a number of areas," Canadiens coach Jacques Martin said. "It wasn't a matter of X's and O's, it was a matter of a lack of intensity to win our battles."

Martin was particularly upset with his top line of Tomas Plekanec, Michael Cammalleri and Brian Gionta, who were a combined minus-8.

"Our support staff did their job," Martin said. "It was our better players that weren't good enough, just look at the plus-minus."

The Predators were coming off an embarrassing 5-4 loss in Toronto on Tuesday where they allowed four consecutive power play goals in the second period to blow a three-goal lead.

Coach Barry Trotz preached discipline to his team for what he called a "tipping point game" and his players responded, though they did allow Montreal three consecutive power plays in the second period.

Except this time, they killed every one of them off, allowing only three shots on four Canadiens power plays.

"This was very much a character game for us," forward Steve Sullivan said, "and we came through it with flying colors."

Conversely, the Canadiens came into the game riding a hot power play with eight goals on 23 chances over their four-game win streak. But they produced little with the man advantage, particularly during a 28-second 5-on-3 in the second period where Montreal managed just one shot on goal over both power plays.

"We needed to go to the net more," Martin said. "With a big goalie like that, we needed to be there for rebounds and deflections."

The victory may have been a costly one for the Predators. Already missing free agent acquisition Matthew Lombardi at the center position, center David Legwand left the game in the first period with a lower-body injury after taking a hit from Roman Hamrlik while trying to squeeze between him and the boards on a dump-in.

There was no update on Legwand's condition after the game.

After a scoreless first period, Goc opened things up when he took a Bouillon pass in front and spun to shoot it around Price for his fourth of the season at 1:19 of the second.

O'Reilly made it 2-0 when Sullivan's pass from the side boards banked in off his skate at 8:55 of the third. Goc sealed it at 11:17 when a long wrist shot from the blue line beat Price high to the blocker side.

"I think everybody was on his game tonight," said Goc, who has 3 goals in his past 2 games. "We managed all three zones well. They had a lot of shots, but we didn't give them many second and third chances."

The Predators have two more games left on their four-game road trip -- in Carolina on Saturday and in Columbus on Monday. The Canadiens host the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday before heading to Philadelphia for a game Monday.

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