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Rinne makes 36 saves, including 19 in the second, en route to matinée win…

When Pekka Rinne was announced as today’s starting netminder for the Nashville Predators, it took many by surprise.

60 minutes and 36 saves later, it was no surprise why Head Coach Barry Trotz called his name after all.

Last year’s Vezina Trophy runner-up backstopped his team to a 3-1 victory over the New York Islanders in front of 10,755 people who had the day off inside Nassau Coliseum.

Rinne made 36 saves on 37 Islanders shots, turning aside 19 in the second period alone. It was believed that back-up goalie Anders Lindback would get the start seeing as how the Predators are on back-to-backs and the New York Rangers (tomorrow’s opponent) boast the best record in the Eastern Conference while the Islanders… well…. they don’t.

This was Nashville’s only matinée contest of the 2011-12 season.

The Predators did all of their damage in the opening 11:37 of the game. Just over 2:00 in, Sergei Kostitsyn scored for not only the third straight game, but he did so in the same fashion for the third straight game. Just as he had done on Thursday — and then again on Saturday — Kostitsyn cut to the slot and then used a defenseman as a screen while wristing a laser top corner for the score.

Matt Halischuk, probably the most underrated Predator this season, tallied his 10th of the year when he burst down the wall and took advantage of veteran blueliner Steve Staios falling down. Once in a shooting position, he used Kostitsyn as a decoy and fired one far side on Islanders rookie goaltender Kevin Poulin to make it 2-0, Nashville.

The Preds rounded out the scoring with a goal by David Legwand midway through the opening frame. In a beautiful tic-tac-toe play that started with Legwand carrying into the Islanders zone, Colin Wilson got the puck over to Martin Erat down low who then tossed the puck over to a breaking Legwand for the score. The goal was his 13th of the season, a team high.

New York finally solved Rinne when John Tavares deflected a Matt Moulson shot in front. But it was too little, too late as the goal came with just under 4:00 remaining in regulation.

With the victory — their fifth in a row — Nashville moves a single point behind the Detroit Red Wings for third, and a single win behind the St. Louis Blues for second in the Central Division. Furthermore, if Chicago, Detroit and St. Louis all go winless this week, Saturday’s tilt at home against the Blackhawks could be for the Central Division lead.

Tomorrow night’s game against the New York Rangers will be Nashville’s second game in 36 hours. The puck drops at 6:30pm Central and you catch all the action on NBC Sports Network (national TV) and 102.5 The Game (radio).

PHOTO CREDIT: Tracy Dean // special to (used with permission)

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