DENVER (AP) Ever so steadily, Nashville’s goal scorers are getting on track. The same applies to goaltender Pekka Rinne.
See, nothing to worry about.
Craig Smith scored twice, Rinne stopped 28 shots and the struggling Predators beat the Colorado Avalanche 5-1 on Tuesday night.
Ryan Johansen and Matt Irwin each scored his first goal of the season, while Roman Josi added an insurance goal late for the Predators, who won on the road for the first time.
Now, if only Filip Forsberg could rediscover his scoring touch. He’s still stuck on zero goals – he had 33 last season – but is showing signs of breaking out of his funk with two more assists.
“It doesn’t matter who is (scoring) – it feels good to contribute,” Forsberg said. “We want to keep building.”
The mood in the Avalanche locker room was sour after such a distressing loss. The team even called an impromptu meeting.
“To a man we have to be honest and look at ourselves in the mirror and reflect on the way we come to work every day,” Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog said. “I’m not going to go into details about the meeting. But we’re going to come to the rink tomorrow with a good attitude. Tonight, it’s got be said: This was embarrassing.”
Staked to a two-goal lead heading into the third period, Rinne easily made it hold up as he improved to 16-7-2 in his career against the Avalanche.
Jarome Iginla scored NHL goal No. 613. He’s 12 behind Colorado Hall-of-Famer-turned-GM Joe Sakic for 15th place on the all-time scoring list.
Landeskog attempted to fire up his team 68 seconds into the third period by dropping the gloves and fighting with Austin Watson. The two traded punches before falling to the ice. Both received five-minute penalties for fighting.
The Avalanche definitely had more zest.
But Rinne & Co. were up for the challenge. Rinne stopped Joe Colborne‘s blast midway through the final period. Moments later, Nashville defenseman Ryan Ellis slid across the goal on his knees to knock away a puck headed for the net.
“Best save of the night,” Rinne said.
It was that kind of evening for Nashville, which kept constant pressure on Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov.
“That’s not at all how we want to play. It’s pretty bad,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said. “The guys are saying and doing the right things postgame, which is a start.”
Josi tapped in a goal with 7:51 left to secure the win. Smith scored his second goal of the game 1:09 later.
Johansen’s power-play goal at 11:47 of the second period gave the Predators a 3-1 lead. That snapped a string of 12 straight penalty kills by Colorado’s defense.
Smith got the Predators on the board before many fans were even seated as he knocked in a pass from Mike Ribeiro at 1:33.
The Avalanche countered when Iginla scored less than five minutes later. Almost fitting, the 39-year-old Iginla broke out of a five-game goal slump in this game, considering his 39 career goals are the most against the Nashville franchise.
Irwin lined in a wrist shot late in the first period for his first goal since March 28, 2015, at Philadelphia. The defenseman was recalled from Milwaukee of American Hockey League on Oct. 24.
“Things are turning a little bit, just offensively,” Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. “We seem to be staying in a little bit longer, getting more looks, more attempts. With that is going to come more results. It’s nice to get those guys going.”
NOTES: F Cody Bass returned after missing four games with an upper-body injury. … D Matt Carle, who played down the road at the University of Denver, and F Kevin Fiala were scratches. … Avalanche D Fedor Tyutin sat out a fourth straight game with a groin injury, but is skating with the team. “We are going to give him a few more skates before we get him in,” Bednar said. … F Gabriel Bourque was reassigned to San Antonio of the AHL to get more playing time, Bednar explained.
Predators: At Arizona on Thursday night.
Avalanche: At Chicago on Thursday night.