Pekka Rinne posted his eighth shutout of the season and the Nashville Predators saw their point streak hit a record 15 games on their way to defeating the Buffalo Sabres by a 4-0 final on Monday night at KeyBank Center.
Nashville has gone 14-0-1 in their past 15 outings and have won four straight overall, including a clean sweep of their three-game road trip. As for their goaltender, Rinne has been victorious in his last 11 starts to tie a career high and has gone 21-1-1 in his last 23 starts, all while leading the NHL with eight shutouts.
The Predators have also earned points in 15 consecutive road games, which extends a franchise record and have won nine straight away from home, another club record. And on this occasion, the Preds say, the result was thanks to No. 35.
“He was really good tonight,” Predators Head Coach Peter Laviolette said of Rinne. “We gave up too many high-quality chances. There were lots of puck that [Buffalo] threw that had a lot of heat… He seemed like he was right on top of all of them. He was on point tonight.”
After a scoreless opening period, winger Miikka Salomaki floated a shot toward the cage that hit off the sticks of Scott Hartnell and Mike Fisher before finding its way into the net for a 1-0 Predators lead at 12:29 of the second stanza. Nashville pushed their advantage less than five minutes later with Ryan Johansen doubling the the Preds lead by depositing a rebound past Linus Ullmark at 17:03.
Then in the third period, Filip Forsberg and Ryan Hartman both tallied in the final four minutes of regulation to deliver Nashville’s 48th victory of the season.
But the Predators wouldn’t have been in position to seal anything if it weren’t for the man between the pipes who picked up his 40th win of the season in the process.
“He’s unbelievable,” Johansen said of Rinne. “In our opinion, he’s been the most valuable player for us, and definitely will be recognized for sure come award time in Vegas this summer.”
A 15-game point streak (14-0-1). A 15-game road point streak. A nine-game road win streak. And that doesn’t even begin to mention Pekka Rinne’s records (see below).
Get all that?
It’s no secret the Predators have been hot over the past few games – or more like since the calendar flipped to January – but win streaks are one thing. To do it night after night, while quickly establishing themselves as the best Preds team in franchise history, is another.
And as if it wasn’t already, it’s time to jump on the #Pekka4Vezina train.
The NHL leader with eight shutouts, Rinne’s blanking of the Sabres on Monday set a career high and his 11 consecutive wins ties a career high. In addition, Rinne recorded his 40th win of the season, the third campaign in his career he’s hit the 40-win mark.
By doing so on three separate seasons, Rinne is now tied with five other netminders in NHL history for the most 40-win seasons, trailing only Martin Brodeur for the all-time record.
A three-time Vezina Finalist, and at the age of 35 no less, Rinne is putting together his best NHL season. The players in front of him are challenged – almost nightly – with deriving new superlatives to describe his stellar play.
“He’s just so motivated,” Johansen said of his goaltender. “He’s such a professional. He’s such a leader on this team, and he’s the reason [for our place in] the standings. He’s been phenomenal for us all year. He’s a man on mission now, and he’s really enjoying it.”
“He’s just been steady,” Laviolette said of RInne. “He’s been rock steady for us the whole time.”
As humble as they come, Rinne was impressed to hear of his company in the three-time 40-win club, but reaching that number is always something the goaltender has his sights set on. And of course, he wasn’t about to take all of the praise.
“That’s a credit to my teammates big time, and also my coaching staff,” Rinne said. “Over the years they’ve trusted me and let me play a lot of games. Even when you win a lot of games you end up losing some, so you need a lot of people pulling for you.”
As Johansen stood at his stall reflecting on his goaltender’s play this season, the thoughts just kept coming. But he eventually caught himself, realizing he had a plane to catch, another game awaiting, another chance to see Rinne do something spectacular.
“I could go on about Peks forever,” Johansen said. “I’m just happy to see him doing so well.”
Mike Fisher now has two goals in seven games since completing his comeback earlier this month.
Austin Watson, Matt Irwin and Yannick Weber were scratches for Monday’s contest.
The Preds next game comes at Bridgestone Arena on Thursday (at 7 p.m. CT) against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Pete Weber’s Postgame Report