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Preds bail out Rinne, beat Avs in overtime…

On Thursday night, the Nashville Predators did something that they rarely do. Bail their goaltender out.

The Preds defeated the visiting Colorado Avalanche 3-2 in overtime at Bridgestone Arena, sweeping the home-and-home series.

Pekka Rinne made 27 saves — and a mental gaffe — en route to his 22nd victory of the season.

Rinne, who’s usually skilled with the puck, tried an up-the-gut pass to a breaking teammate when Colorado’s Ryan O’Reilly picked it off and put in the back of the net for the 1-0 lead.

“I tried to get it over everybody but I just fanned on it,” Rinne explained.

“He didn’t get a lot on it,” O’Reilly said. “I just kind of threw it up over the pad. He almost stopped it, but I got a lucky bounce there.”

The bad breaks for Nashville would continue when, toward the end of the opening period, 2011 second overall pick Gabriel Landeskog had the puck between the half-boards and the face-off circle, wound up and rifled one through Rinne’s five-hole to make it 2-0, Avs.

“It was a soft goal,” Rinne admitted. “I gave those guys both of those goals. It’s not a good feeling. After the first period, you feel like you’ve let your teammates down.”

Midway through the contest, the Preds finally gave their netminder some goal support. After a flurry of activity in the Avalanche zone, David Legwand found the puck on his stick in the high slot. He made no mistake, wristing it past Jean-Sébastien Giguère to cut the deficit to one.

Things would stay that way until the final stanza when Sergei Kostitsyn put his full potential on display. With 8:48 left in the period, “SK” danced around Ryan Wilson with a sweet toe drag, fired a puck through his legs and deposited it top corner, glove-side to tie the game.

It would take overtime to decide this one, however. Legwand stole the puck in the neutral zone, carried in and went straight to the net. While his initial shot was stopped by Giguere, he would score on the follow-up attempt to give his team the victory.

Nobody was happier about the win than Rinne.

“It’s never easy when you start a game like that,” he said. “But with the help of my teammates, I was able to bounce back and I felt a lot better in the second and third periods.”

“It just feels good to bail him out because he’s the guy that bails us out all the time,” Head Coach Barry Trotz said.

Kostitsyn agreed.

“He’s saved us a lot,” Kostitsyn said. “They were little mistakes that he made but that’s fine. We are a team and we are playing together. We got three goals back for him.”

The Preds have now won six of their last seven, including three in a row. But, beyond those impressive results, even more impressive is that, with these two wins, Nashville took seven of the possible eight points in the home-and-home against the Avalanche. This is huge as that’s four points that they earned and three that Colorado can never get back.

Through Thursday night’s action, Nashville sits in sixth place in the West while the Avs remain on the outside looking in, with 48 points being only good enough for ninth.

The Preds will finish their mini-home stand against the Eastern Conference powerhouse Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday night. With a win — and a Detroit loss to the Chicago Blackhawks — Nashville can move within a single point of their arch-rival for third in the Central Division.

Puck drops at 7:00pm Central.

PHOTO CREDIT: Jeremy K. Gover //