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Rinne has stellar outing as Preds defeat Flyers…

Can these two teams be in a Stanley Cup Final series?

Sheesh. That was a lot of fun.

In front of yet another sold out Bridgestone Arena crowd, the rare match-up between the Nashville Predators and the visiting Philadelphia Flyers provided an entertaining night of hockey, resulting in a 4-2 Preds win.

Pekka Rinne made 36 saves while his counterpart at the other end of the ice, Ilya Bryzgalov, turned aside just 21. But Rinne’s performance went well beyond the 36 saves. He played what was probably his best game since mid-December.

“He’s amazing,” Preds rookie Gabriel Bourque said. “He really helps the guys’ confidence and he always responds with big saves and saves the game for us.”

Chris Mueller agreed.

“He’s one of the best goalies in the world,” he said. “You shouldn’t say this but he’s like a safe zone back there. If you do slip up here or there, he’s going to be pretty hard to beat.”

Early in the game, the Preds looked like they had built some momentum and then capitalized. The home team was buzzing all over the Flyers zone and then, on the next sequence, appeared to have scored the games opening goal. With Nick Spaling crashing the net, the puck trickled through Bryzgalov and over the line for the 1-0 lead. The goal went under review and it was determined that Bourque had kicked it in from the side of the net.

We would remain scoreless until Martin Erat tallied on Nashville’s first power play of the game. Shea Weber got the puck to Erat in the left face-off circle. Erat’s initial shot ricocheted back to him but his second shot was screened by Hornqvist, making it 1-0 going into the intermission.

Nashville would extend their lead to two while Flyers rookie Brayden Schenn was exiting the penalty box. Just seconds after the Preds power play had expired, Sergei Kostitsyn cut the slot, used a defenseman as a screen and wristed a laser into the top corner, glove side for the goal. It was nearly a carbon copy of his goal against the Colorado Avalanche Thursday night.

Philadelphia rookie Sean Couturier, on one of the most beautiful wrist shots you’ll ever see, cut the Predators’ lead to one late in the second. But, early in the third, the Predators tallied another when Spaling had the puck bounce off his hockey shorts and in to make it 4-2.

The Flyers made things interesting when Wayne Simmonds put home a rebound while he was standing at the top of the crease with just over 10:00 to go in regulation but it was too little, too late.

Mike Fisher would score the empty netter to round out the scoring.

Nashville will now board a plane bound for New York. They’ll take on the Islanders on Monday at noon (Central Time) and then the Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night.

If you have Martin Luther King Jr. Day off, head on down to Brewhouse South in Franklin for Monday afternoon’s game. It might be cool to have a daytime hockey viewing party.

1) Nick Spaling (NSH)
2) Sean Couturier (PHI)
3) Pekka Rinne (NSH)

PHOTO CREDIT: Jeremy K. Gover //