Rinne, Preds Blank Wild 3-0

Posted: 6:29 PM, Apr 01, 2017
Updated: 2017-04-02 00:38:18-04

In a potential playoff preview, the Predators displayed a playoff brand of hockey Saturday, blanking the Wild 3-0.

Pekka Rinne stopped all 31 shots he faced to post the shutout in a game that was full of tight checking, hard hitting and limited scoring chances.

"Both teams played hard," Predators head coach Peter Laviolette said. "That was playoff hockey. It was fast and tight and if you didn't play that way for 60 minutes, you probably weren't going to win the game."

The Predators took control late in the second period with two goals in the span of 10 seconds. First, off a face-off win, Roman Josi fired a shot that Filip Forsberg tipped past Alex Stalock for his 31st goal of the season, two shy of his career-high and franchise record for goals in a season set last year.

Just moments later, Kevin Fiala converted a takeaway for a 2-0 lead.

"It was a solid game," Predators captain Mike Fisher said. "They're a solid team. It was fast and tight and that's a big win."

Nashville has won its fair share of games down the stretch. Saturday's win snapped a two-game skid, but gives the Preds eight wins in their last 11 games.

With just four games left in the regular season, the Preds are playing their best hockey of the year.

"We're playing well," Laviolette said. "Even Thursday I thought we played well, I just didn't like the result." I like how we've played the last eight periods, and the Islanders game before that."

A big part of the late season success has been the play of goaltender Pekka Rinne, who was steady from the opening face-off Saturday, thwarting all Minnesota scoring chances.

The 34 year old Rinne is on pace to play his fewest games in a regular season since 2010 and appears to still have plenty in the tank heading into the playoffs thanks to the emergence of backup Juuse Saros as a quality second option between the pipes.

"That was the plan," Laviolette said of limiting Rinne's games in the regular season. "Juuse has played so well, it's allowed us (to sit Pekka) a little more."

That can only be a good thing as the Preds get set for a postseason run where Pekka being at his best will be critical.

But for now Nashville is worried about playoff seeding. The win over the Wild moved the Preds into a third place tie with the Blues in the Central Division. Both teams have 91 points, but the Blues have a game in hand heading into their massive showdown Sunday in St. Louis.

"It's the biggest game of the season so far," Forsberg said. "It'll be fun to go into their place and we need a win."

The Predators will clinch a playoff berth with their next earned point or with any Kings' loss, but clearly their focus is on much more heading into the final week of the season. 

A regulation win Sunday in St. Louis would put them in prime position to finish third in the Central and force a playoff rematch with the fading Wild. That would be preferable to a wild card position and a first round matchup against one of the Western Conference's division champions.

"We're trying to make the playoffs," Fiala said. "Right now, we're trying to finish in third place and we need to win games."