ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP)—The Nashville Predators were finally rewarded for playing well.
“It was a solid game and everybody worked hard for each other. When we do that it’s going to be hard to beat us,” Hornqvist said. “It’s a great feeling in the locker room, and was all the time on the bench.”
The same can’t be said about the frustrated team down the hall.
“We weren’t executing. We weren’t sharp. They were sharper than we were and that was the difference in the game,” Minnesota center John Madden(notes) said. “I’m not going to sit here like I have all the answers.”
Rinne won for the first time in four starts since returning from a left knee injury that sidelined him for eight games. He made two of his best saves during a third-period penalty kill, hugging the post to stop Martin Havlat(notes) from in close and squaring up to deny Matt Cullen(notes) on a slap shot from the left circle. Defenseman Francis Bouillon(notes) made a big block on Mikko Koivu(notes) after Minnesota got within a goal in the final minutes.
“It’s hard to say when you’re losing games that you feel like your old self, but I feel like I’ve been playing well, I’m just not getting the results,” Rinne said.
That has been the case for the team as a whole lately, and coach Barry Trotz wasn’t surprised the streak-breaking win didn’t come easily.
“The previous two games I really felt victimized because we were the better team, but sometimes it doesn’t show up on the scoreboard as you’d like,” Trotz said. “Tonight, we had a lot of chances we missed. A couple of times we could have buried them with the third goal, but we didn’t. I think it was a little test for us that we’re not going to make it easy, and we’re going to test your sternness, your mentality and your resolve a little bit.”
Ward and Kostitsyn scored empty-net goals.
Kobasew scored with 1:54 remaining, tipping in a shot from Havlat. It was his third goal in as many games.
“It was a little too late at the end. We almost came back, but almost doesn’t count,” Havlat said.
NOTES: Wild RW Cal Clutterbuck(notes), the NHL leader with 165 hits, missed the game because of what the team called a “nagging injury.” He played in the Wild’s first 36 games of the season. … RW Marek Svatos(notes) made his debut for the Predators. He was claimed off waivers from St. Louis on Wednesday, after signing with the Blues Tuesday. Svatos, who played the last six seasons with Colorado, started the season in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League. … Nashville C David Legwand(notes), who had missed nine straight games and played just once since Nov. 18 because of a lower-body injury, had two assists. … Minnesota allowed two empty-net goals for the first time in franchise history.