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Rinne’s 35 saves leads Preds to victory over Wings…

With names like Nicklas Lidstrom, Jimmy Howard, Todd Bertuzzi and Pavel Datsyuk missing from the Detroit Red Wings lineup, it was an opportunity the Nashville Predators absolutely had to take advantage of.

And take advantage they did.

In front of 17,113 inside Bridgestone Arena, the Preds were outshot 37-20 but led where it counts: the scoreboard. The 3-2 win brought the 5th place Predators within four points of fourth place Detroit in the Western Conference standings.

And while he wasn’t named one of the stars of the game, Pekka Rinne was arguably Nashville’s best performer of the night. He made 35 saves, including 17 in the final frame alone, and improved to 38-14-7 on the year.

“Pekka Rinne played well,” Red Wings forward Justin Abdelkader said. “I thought we created some chances, had some good opportunities, but we just didn’t get it by him. He’s their best player.”

The Preds drew first blood when Patric Hornqvist tallied his 21st of the season but, in what’s becoming a disturbing trend, the opponent answered on the very next shift. Drew Miller beat rookie defenseman Ryan Ellis off the boards behind the net and brought it out front. Before anyone could sit down from celebrating Hornqvist’s opening goal, the puck was in the back of Predators’ net.

“That first goal, I was mad at myself,” Rinne admitted. “I don’t know how it got through me, I thought I had everything shut down. It was a bad start to the game but we responded right away.”

Nashville found a way to get the lead back, however, as the Kostitsyn brothers hooked up on the power play. Sergei Kostitsyn, from the face-off circle, fed a centering pass to his brother Andrei Kostitsyn who was standing all alone in front of the net. How alone was he? He had time to swing the puck to the opposite post and deposit it past Joey MacDonald for his 14th of the season.

After a scoreless middle frame the Kostitsyn brothers hooked up for a second time, in almost the same fashion. Sergei found Andrei in front of the net yet again and the elder Kostitsyn bagged his second of the game to make it 3-1, Nashville.

“The Kostitsyn brothers really made it happen tonight,” Rinne said. “That was fun to watch. And same with Leggy. When the game is on the line, Leggy is always at his best.”

Detroit would try to start the comeback on an Abdelkader goal with 15:25 remaining in regulation but it wasn’t enough. The Predators would hold on and win this one, 3-2.

Nashville now embarks on a four-game west coast swing where they’ll visit Phoenix, San Jose, Los Angeles and Anaheim, respectively. None of the four are above seventh in the Western Conference standings and three of them aren’t in the playoff picture at all (as of tonight).

Puck drops in Phoenix at 9:00pm Central on Monday night.

PHOTO CREDIT: Jeremy K. Gover //