Nashville, TN – Pekka Rinne picked a good time for his first playoff shutout.
The Vezina Trophy candidate posted 32 saves to help the Nashville Predators take a 2-0 win over the Phoenix Coyotes in Game 3 of this Western Conference semifinal series from Bridgestone Arena on Wednesday night.
Nashville had dropped the first two games of this best-of-seven series in Phoenix, but the home crowd helped it get back into the series thanks to Rinne's shutout and goals from David Legwand and Mike Fisher 66 seconds apart in the first period.
"I thought we had a much better effort, much better defensively...It was a huge win for us," Fisher said.
The Predators grabbed the win without forwards Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn, who were both suspended by the team for this game on Tuesday after violating team rules.
Mike Smith was touched for both goals on 26 shots for the Coyotes, who had won all three road games in their opening-round series against Chicago.
"We have to compete harder in what we do than what we did. We're going to bounce back," Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson said.
Game 4 will be played on Friday night in Nashville.
Phoenix nearly scored about seven minutes in when a shot from the left circle by Rostislav Klesla beat Rinne, but the shot rang off the right post.
The Predators then scored a pair of goals separated by just over a minute to provide Rinne all the insurance he needed.
It was a 1-0 game at 8:10 after a costly mistake from Smith. The goaltender came out too close to the right boards to play the puck and wrapped it back the other way. However, Gabriel Bourque grabbed the disc along the deep left boards and centered it for Legwand, who had a wide open net and buried it as Smith was still scrambling to get back in place.
Another turnover led to the second goal on the following shift. Martin Erat stole the puck at the right circle and passed it over to the slot for Sergei Kostitsyn, who sent it to the right where Fisher attempted a pass back across for Kostitsyn, but the puck deflected off Smith's stick and went in for a 2-0 lead at the 9:16 mark.
Rinne stopped 10 shots in the first period then made 12 saves in the second period to keep Phoenix off the board.
Phoenix had a prime chance late in the third as Kostitsyn and Erat were called for consecutive minors, giving the Coyotes 41 seconds of a 5-on-3 power play, but they were unable to cash in and the Predators cut their series deficit in half.
Rinne posted 25 shutouts over 250 games in the regular season while he needed 26 games in the postseason to get his first whitewash...Phoenix was 0-for-4 on the power play while Nashville went 0-for-5...Neither of these teams have advanced past the semifinal round in their history...Each team won twice in the regular season series, with one of Nashville's wins coming in a shootout.