Predators Drop New Jersey on Tuesday Night 3 to 1

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Roman Josi

Roman Josi

Pekka Rinne made 22 saves to lead the unbeaten Nashville Predators to a 3-1 victory against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center on Tuesday.

Predators defenseman Roman Josi scored twice, a power-play goal midway through the first period and a shorthanded, empty-net goal with 2:39 left in the third. Eric Nystrom also scored into an empty net after the Devils had pulled within 2-1 with 1:40 remaining in the third when Kyle Palmieri scored on a power-play deflection with goalie Keith Kinkaid pulled for an extra attacker.

“I was just happy to see Eric Nystrom’s empty-netter seal the deal,” said Rinne, who has allowed two goals in the three victories. “Obviously you never want to give up a goal but at the same time I was just extremely happy about this win. It wasn’t the most exciting game, and as players we felt that too. But any time you play a game like that it’s going to bother you way more if you come out on the losing side.”

The Predators improved to 3-0-0 for the second time in team history and has outscored its three opponents 7-2. They opened the 2005-06 season by going 8-0-0.

“Our goaltending has been really good and our defense has done a good job from the top of the circles down,” Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. “There hasn’t been too many chances where there have been guys uncovered, so I think we’re doing a good job of protecting the front of our net and guys are blocking shots and doing the little things in the defensive zone.”

Despite the win, Laviolette would like to see a little more out of his offense.

“It’s got to get better,” he said. “In the second period [when the Devils outshot the Predators 6-4] we weren’t very good. I thought we were better in the third but there wasn’t a lot of room out there either. We’re not giving up too much, but we’re not creating too much either.”

Josi scored his goal 19 seconds after Cody Hodgson’s holding penalty gave the Devils a power play and they pulled Kinkaid for a 6-on-4 advantage.

Devils first-year coach John Hynes, who is still seeking his first NHL victory behind the bench, did not regret pulling Kinkaid when his team was given the power play and trailing 1-0 late in the game.

“It’s a situation where we weren’t generating a ton [of offense] 5-on-5 at all in the third period and had an opportunity where we had possession and a power play,” Hynes said. “So every situation is different, and that was how we decided to play it.”

Rinne played in his 384th career game to become the team’s all-time leader in games played by a goaltender, breaking a tie with Tomas Vokoun. Rinne also holds team marks in wins (207) and shutouts (37) in his six seasons, all with the Predators.

He was the first to admit being the beneficiary of solid defensive play throughout.

“We have so many good skaters [on defense] and every one of them block shots and have good sticks,” Rinne said. “It comes down to a lot of things, even with how [the forwards] help out. The biggest thing is guys feel comfortable and feel confident playing together. We communicate a lot on the ice and I think that helps, but overall it’s just how good they all are. We’re fortunate to have those guys.”

Whenever New Jersey did gain entry into the Nashville end, it rarely generated quality second-chance attempts; defensemen Josi, Shea Weber, Barret Jackman, Seth Jones, Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm were strong on every loose puck.

“It’s a combination of us delivering pucks to the net and at times not getting enough traffic there, or they did a good job defensively to deny us opportunities to get to those second pucks,” Hynes said. “We had second chances, but there wasn’t enough times when we had a strong net-front presence, and we weren’t able to get the shots through.”

New Jersey’s leading point-producer, Mike Cammalleri (one goal, three points), was held without a shot attempt and center Adam Henrique struggling in the faceoff circle, winning six of 17 draws.

“We’re not frustrated and we’ll keep pushing forward,” Henrique said. “We need everyone in here in order to win and can’t get frustrated with each other. Obviously there are positives and negatives to every game so we’ll come back [Wednesday], move forward and get better.”

The Devils, who outshot the Predators 23-20, have opened a season with three straight losses (0-3-0) for just the second time in team history; they started 2001-02 by going 0-4-0. The Devils have gone seven straight without a win, dating to the end of the 2014-15 season, and haven’t won in regulation since March 20, going 1-10-3 since with one shootout victory.

Josi scored his first of the season by firing a slap shot from the top of right circle past Kinkaid at 10:34 of the first period. The puck squeezed between the pads of Kinkaid, who may have overplayed the shot by sliding right-to-left too soon.

Kinkaid, who allowed four goals on 26 shots in a 5-3 loss at the Washington Capitals on Saturday, made 17 saves in his second straight start. Kinkaid, who started two straight games for the first time in his career, played in 19 games last season, including 13 starts. No. 1 goalie Cory Schneider was unavailable after his wife, Jill, gave birth to the couple’s first child, a son named Wyatt, early Tuesday morning.

“There’s a good possibility we’ll have Cory next game,” Hynes said. “It wasn’t a health-related thing, but family-related so we’ll see.”

The Devils are off until they host the San Jose Sharks on Friday. The game marks the return of former Devils coach Peter DeBoer, who now coaches the Sharks. The Predators play the second of a three-game road trip against the New York Islanders on Thursday.  That game is set to get underway at 6 PM in Brooklyn and Thunder Radio will bring you the broadcast on the Nashville Predators Radio Network.