Johansen scores, Rinne stays hot, Predators blank Blues 2-0
ST. LOUIS (AP) — Pekka Rinne grew up admiring Miikka Kiprusoff, a fellow Finnish goalie.
On Friday, Rinne surpassed him.
Ryan Johansen had a goal and an assist, and Rinne earned his second shutout of the season and 45th of his career as the Nashville Predators beat the St. Louis Blues 2-0.
Rinne moved past Kiprusoff for the most shutouts by a player from Finland.
“It’s a fun little thing,” Rinne said. “He’s a guy I always looked up to, and I was really happy when I had a chance to play against one of my idols, so that’s pretty cool.”
Johansen scored his third goal of the season early in the first, and Rinne made it hold up, stopping 34 shots to blank St. Louis for the third time in his career.
“He deserves a lot of credit like most nights,” Johansen said. “He’s been stellar to start the year so far, and you need good goaltending to win in this league, so he’s been the backbone and we need him to keep doing what he’s doing.”
Austin Watson added an empty-netter. Johansen earned his 200th career assist on the insurance tally.
The Predators won their fourth straight game and improved to 9-2 in November.
Carter Hutton made 26 saves for the Blues, taking his first loss in just his sixth appearance as St. Louis was blanked for the second time this season. Hutton made the save of the game, sliding across the crease to rob Viktor Arvidsson midway through the third period.
The Blues went 0-for-3 on the power play, mustering just two total shots as the Predators put up a wall on their own blue line. St. Louis entered the game with the 24th-ranked power play in the league.
“We had some chances. You’ve just got to find a way to score,” Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo said. “When you don’t score you can’t win. Hutts (Hutton) played well and it’s frustrating we don’t get any, especially when we had the power play opportunities.”
The Predators were held without a power-play chance for the first time this season and the first time since Feb. 23, 2017, in a 4-2 victory over Colorado.
It was the first meeting between the Central Division rivals since Nashville eliminated St. Louis in the second round of the playoffs last April. Nashville pulled within three points of the Western Conference-leading Blues.
“I felt as a team we were super-excited to play against the No. 1 team in the NHL,” Rinne said. “It was a battle, but I thought we played a very strong game defensively so obviously that made my job easier.”
Rinne won his eighth game in his last nine starts and improved to 20-16-4 over the Blues. Rinne wasn’t tested much, but came up with glove saves on chances by Vladimir Tarasenko and Chris Thorburn as the Blues turned up the pressure in the third period.
“He was really good again,” Predators coach Peter Laviolette said of Rinne. “It was quiet for him early and then we made some mistakes in the neutral zone in the middle of the game, and he cleaned them up for us and played a terrific game.”
Johansen ripped a one-timer from Filip Forsberg past Hutton to give the Predators a 1-0 lead just 2:32 into the game. After scoring once in his first 19 games, Johansen has scored twice in his last three.
“I felt we weren’t sharp enough to create some offense against a team like that,” Blues coach Mike Yeo said. “I thought we made it easy to defend against, stayed on the outside a little too much.”
NOTES: Blues recalled LW Sammy Blais from Chicago (AHL). ... Forsberg and Predators D P.K. Subban extended their respective points streaks to seven and four games with assists on Johansen’s goal. ... The Blues scratched Blais, D Carl Gunnarsson and D Nate Prosser. ... The Predators scratched LW Cody McLeod and C Frederick Gaudreau.
Predators: Travel to Carolina on Sunday night.
Blues: Host Minnesota on Saturday night.
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