NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE (TICKER) —The Nashville Predators’ improbable charge toward the playoffs took another step in the right direction.
Vokoun made 22 saves for his third shutout of the season and ninth of his career. He faced just 19 shots in Tuesday’s 5-0 blanking of Columbus.
Greg Johnson scored twice and added an assist against his former team as the Predators climbed back to the .500 mark. They trail Edmonton by four points for the final Western Conference playoff berth.
“We dug ourselves a big hole, but we have persevered,” said Johnson, whose team is 23-13-5-0 following a 2-12-4-4 start.
Playing in his 50th different NHL arena, superstar Mario Lemieux was held without a point as the Penguins lost for the seventh time in 11 games.
“It’s rough right now, but we have to forget this one and go on and win the next one,” said Pittsburgh goaltender Sebastien Caron, who stopped 30 shots.
Vokoun hardly was challenged as Lemieux was held to one shot before sitting out the third period for precautionary reasons after suffering back spasms.
“It was a fun game to watch, I didn’t have much to do,” Vokoun said. “I’ve never done that (record back-to-back shutouts) in my career, it’s an awesome feeling.”
“Everybody’s contributing and we are getting great goaltending, it’s all you can ask,” Nashville coach Barry Trotz said.
Johnson missed 44 games due to a concussion and posted his first multi-point effort since returning 14 games ago.
“My legs have definitely been back the last five or six games,” he said. “I feel very comfortable out there.”
Vladimir Orszagh wasted no time scoring the only goal Vokoun needed, beating Caron 48 seconds into the first period. Defenseman Jason York fired a slap shot from the right point that Orszagh deflected between the goalie’s pads.
“Yorkie made a good shot and I just tipped it between the goalie’s pads and it went in,” Orszagh said. “An early good start is really important for us.”
David Legwand doubled the lead at 6:54 with his 17th goal. Coming off of the bench on a line change, he picked up a pass from defenseman Karlis Skrastins just inside the blue line, carried to the high light and wristed a shot over the stick of a diving Caron.
Caron stopped Vitali Yachmenev on three point-blank shots, then denied York on a partial breakaway in the waning minutes of the period to keep Pittsburgh within reach. The Penguins came within 7.2 seconds of keeping the Predators off the board in the second period, but Johnson netted his fourth goal to make it 3-0.
Orszagh stripped the puck from defenseman Dick Tarnstrom and Yachmenev fired a pass across the slot to Johnson. After corraling, Johnson put a wrist shot over Caron’s glove.
“The third goal was the back-breaking goal,” Trotz said.
“I thought we battled hard in the second, but the goal at the end of the period really put us in a big hole,” Penguins coach Rick Kehoe said.
“We worked hard, but we weren’t smart,” Caron said.