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Smith, Rinne help Predators shut out Jets

by Robby Stanley /

NASHVILLE -- Craig Smith's big first period helped the Nashville Predators to a 7-0 win against the Winnipeg Jets at Bridgestone Arena on Saturday.

Smith had a goal and two assists in the first period after not scoring a goal since Oct. 17. The Predators (10-3-3) scored four goals in the first period on nine shots.

"It was good," Smith said. "It felt good. My line made some nice plays. A couple of other plays in some other games could've gone too, but tonight it went well."

Jets goaltender Michael Hutchinson allowed three goals on seven shots before being pulled for Ondrej Pavelec, who made 23 saves.

"No, I don't feel bad for our goaltenders," Jets coach Paul Maurice said. "They're all a part of it. We had a lot of chances to stop the puck. It's a tough life."

Winnipeg (8-8-2) has lost five straight games.

"You just have to continue to go, no matter how hard it seems," Jets defenseman Mark Stuart said. "After this stretch and especially this game, you feel down obviously, but we're professionals and we don't have time to feel down. We have another big game coming up, so we can't afford it."

Calle Jarnkrok gave the Predators a 1-0 lead at 4:45 of the first period on a slap shot from the right faceoff circle. Jarnkrok entered the zone and took the pass from forward Cody Hodgson and shot it past Hutchinson.

Smith gave the Predators a 2-0 lead at 5:58 on a wrist shot from in front of the net. Smith drove to the net, received the pass from defenseman Seth Jones and shot it past Hutchinson for his fourth goal.

"Our team's been playing great," Smith said. "I think every line is chipping in in some way. On top of that, we've got a great goaltender that's playing well so I think on any given night someone's going to step up and make a play and get a goal from each different line. Not every game is going to be like this, but we've got guys that have got the confidence to put one in."

Jones and Mike Ribeiro closed out the scoring in the first to give Nashville a 4-0 lead.

"It was one of our best starts, that's for sure," Ribeiro said. "I think we played solid. At the end of the second, we kind of let go a little bit. We've played some good games, but I think it's the first game that we've played the way we want to play and we win. All of the other four games we've played the way that we like, we didn't win. That's good that we got the win. We need to get a few together here and get on a roll."

James Neal made it 5-0 at 2:56 of the second period on a one-timer from the slot. Forward Colin Wilson made the pass to Neal, who scored his team-leading eighth goal.

"I thought we did a pretty good job of staying focused," Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. "It was a different type of game. The message we had after the second period was just keep going with the simple game, north, putting it behind them and forechecking. If something was going to happen, they'd have to go 200 feet to make it happen."

Jarnkrok added another goal on the power play at 11:51 of the third period. He took a pass from defenseman Ryan Ellis and one-timed the puck past Pavelec. Defenseman Mattias Ekholm scored a power-play goal less than two minutes later at 13:33 for a 7-0 lead.

Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne made 20 saves for his second shutout of the season.

"He was great," Predators defenseman Roman Josi said. "He was good all game. It's always tough if you're up 4-0 or 5-0, especially if you're a goalie. He played great all game and made all the saves."

Winnipeg and Nashville combined for 156 penalty minutes, including 104 in the third period. Jones thought Nashville did a good job of continuing to focus on the game.

"Just play the game," Jones said. "You've got to stay out of the extra stuff after the whistles. They were trying to draw penalties obviously to gain momentum hoping one goal could maybe lead to another for them, but we just kept playing hockey and that's the most important thing that we did."

Prior to the game, there was a moment of silence to honor the victims of the attacks in Paris on Friday.

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