Pekka Rinne turned aside 24 shots and Colton Sissons got the winner as the Nashville Predators defeated the Calgary Flames by a 3-1 final on Thursday night at Bridgestone Arena, taking five of six points from the Flames in the season series. The victory gives Nashville 37 wins and 85 points, and to collect it against one of the NHL's hottest teams doesn't hurt either.
"That's a huge win against a good team," Rinne said. "They've been really hot as of late and they came hard, I thought the first and second, and then in the third period, I think that we locked it down pretty good. We didn't give them a lot. It's a big character win. It's not always pretty, and it's not always a fancy game, but it's efficient and we delivered tonight."
A scoreless first period gave way to a second stanza that saw the Preds register only three shots, but come away with two goals, with tallies from Calle Jarnkrok and Colton Sissons for a 2-0 Nashville lead. Craig Smith set up Jarnkrok - his third primary assist in his last two games - and Colin Wilson collected his second helper of the night on the Sissons tally.
Dougie Hamilton brought the Flames back to within one before the second period was out, but Ryan Ellis potted his third in two games in the final frame to seal the victory for Nashville, their second of the season over Calgary.
Video: CGY@NSH: Ellis keeps puck in zone, nets wrister
The Nashville penalty kill was a perfect 5-for-5 on the night and the defensive prowess on the home stand continued with the Preds giving up just two goals in their last two outings.
"As the game went on, I thought we were tight defensively in the neutral zone, turned some pucks over and just didn't allow entry," Preds Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. "That was good for the penalty kill. You want to be ready to kill all penalties, and we had to kill too many tonight, but they did the job."
With nine games to go in the regular season, the tests continue, and with San Jose paying a visit to Nashville on Saturday, the Preds know they'll need more of the same as they push to solidify a spot in the postseason.
"We have to keep moving in the right direction," Laviolette said. "It was a good win tonight… That being said, it doesn't guarantee anything for Saturday. We're going to have to come out and play a really good team, work hard to be successful."
Making It Count:
The Predators put a season-low 17 shots on Chad Johnson and the Calgary Flames on Thursday night, but that was enough to score three times on the way to their second consecutive 3-1 victory.
Only three of those 17 shots came in the second period, also a season-low for shots in a single frame, but the Preds managed to score twice in the 20 minutes with goals from Calle Jarnkrok and Colton Sissons.
Video: CGY@NSH: Sissons tallies from a sharp angle in 2nd
Especially for Sissons, who was filling in between Craig Smith and Colin Wilson with Mike Fisher out of the lineup, the marker felt even sweeter, considering his last three came in a hat trick on Jan. 5 at Tampa Bay.
"I think I fit in pretty well," Sissons said. "I was looking to challenge myself, getting an opportunity with Fisher out tonight. I thought we had a solid game, scored a big goal, so we're happy about our effort."
Sissons also earned the praises of his head coach, undoubtedly one of the better games of the season for the young centerman.
"He's been fast, he's been physical, tonight it was good to see him chip in offense," Laviolette said of Sissons. "He's been good in the face-off circle, detailed defensively, but really just trying to make a mark which is good. We've had a couple conversations this year, for me this is the best stretch he's been in, and he's very noticeable. Tonight, he moved up in the lineup, got a little bit of a different look and a different opportunity, and I thought he was really sharp."
Video: Rinne backstops Predators to 3-1 victory
Preds Captain Mike Fisher missed Thursday's game with a lower-body injury and is considered day-to-day. Forward Vernon Fiddler, who had been day-to-day with an upper-body injury, rejoined Nashville's lineup on Thursday.
Defenseman Mattias Ekholm skated in his 300th NHL game on Thursday night and forward Colton Sissons appeared in his 100th NHL contest, both players spending their entire careers with the Predators. Sissons netted the game-winning goal on the night with Ekholm picking up an assist on the play.
The Predators finish off their three-game home stand on Saturday night when they host the San Jose Sharks at Bridgestone Arena before heading to the Northeast for a back-to-back set against the Islanders and Bruins early next week. Prior to the contest against the Sharks, the Preds are set to hold a ceremony honoring goaltender Pekka Rinne for playing in 500 NHL games.