The Nashville Predators got back to winning with a 3-1 victory over the Florida Panthers on Saturday night in Florida. Nashville was able to jump up early and hang on late, despite a few close calls down the stretch.
In the first period, the Predators got a unique goal: the trade deadline special. At the 11:35 point in the first period, Andrei Kostitsyn scored his first goal as a Predator with assists from two other players who were acquired via trades near the deadline, Paul Gaustad and Hal Gill, which made the game 1-0 Nashville.
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Less than 30 seconds into the second period, the Predators doubled their lead to 2-0 over the Panthers. Mike Fisher slipped into an open spot right in front of the Florida net and Martin Erat found him for the quick score, Fisher’s 19th of the season.
The Panthers wouldn’t go away easy. Later in the second period (the 7:49 mark), Wojtek Wolski got a wide open shot to cut the lead to 2-1. Wolski was able to get open on a small break-away for the Panthers after a Nashville turnover. Marcel Goc and Tomas Fleischmann assited on the play.
At the 7:02 point of the third period, David Legwand helped Nashville to take a huge step in effectively putting the game away. Legwand scored his 15th goal of the season with assists from Andrei Kostitsyn and Ryan Suter to make the game 3-1 in favor of Nashville.
Florida had several opportunities to cut into the Nashville lead in the third period. The Predators had passes get picked off in their own zone, in the neutral zone and even in the Panthers’ zone, which lead to many open opportunities for the Panther.
Pekka Rinne, however, was having none of it.
Rinne managed a whopping 39 saves on 40 save attempts, good for .975 save percent. The sheer number of saves, nor the percentage, is where the true excellece of Rinne shined. Rather, his brilliance on Saturday night was best shown in how he stopped 1-on-1’s, 2-on-1’s and even once a lone player taking him on. Each time Rinne turned away the Panthers in the third period with save after impressive safe, covering his guys’ mistakes and even standing tall through good defense by his teammates.
Rinne’s opposition, Scott Clemmenson, snagged 20 saves on 23 attemps, which got him a .870 save percent. Clemmenson also had some key saves in the third period, most notable his stop of a wide-open, all alone Craig Smith, who had stolen the puck and was well on his way for what appeared to be a certain goal, when Clemmenson gloved the puck to allow his team to remain on the fringe of contention in the game.
The Panthers have lost 5 of their last 6 home games. Both teams combined to go 0-4 on power plays, with Florida going 0-3 and Nashville going 0-1.
The Predators return to Nashville to face the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday night.