TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Pekka Rinne helped Nashville overcome some offensive lulls.
He made 28 saves for his 40th win, and the Predators moved into first place in the Central Division Thursday night by beating the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2.
"It was a fun game to play," Rinne said. "You could tell both teams really needed these points and wanted these points."
Mike Ribeiro, Paul Gaustad and Mike Santorelli scored for the Predators, who took a one-point lead over St. Louis. The Blues have played one fewer game.
"We didn’t seem to have our best legs tonight," Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said after his team got just 19 shots. "It’s a good road win. It’s not easy coming down here and being able to walk away with a win."
Rinne made a pad save on Alex Killorn’s in-close backhand early in the third. The goalie had a career-best 43 wins in 2011-12.
Tampa Bay got goals from Vladislav Namestnikov and Brian Boyle. The Lightning trail Atlantic Division-leading Montreal by one point
"Two wasn’t enough," Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said. "We had our chances. We were fine. We held a 100-point team under 20 shots."
Soon after Nashville failed to get a shot during a four-minute power play, Santorelli ended Ben Bishop’s night by scoring on his own rebound to give Nashville a 3-1 lead 6:47 into the second.
Bishop gave up three goals on 11 shots, and was replaced by Andrei Vasilevskiy.
Boyle got the Lightning within 3-2 at 13:19 of the second.
Ribeiro (3:28) and Gaustad (4:08) scored 40 seconds apart early in the first to put Nashville up 2-0.
Ribeiro had a nice redirection from the left circle and Gaustad swatted a thigh-high rebound into the net.
"We got a little fortunate with our first two goals," Rinne said. "Maybe we weren’t quite as good as them the first half of the game but I felt like we got better. They created a lot of offense and a lot of good looks."
Namestnikov made it 2-1 with 29 seconds left in the first after skating behind the net and putting the puck in off Rinne.
The Predators went almost 11 minutes without a shot after Gaustad’s goal until Mike Fisher had a soft, long-range backhand. Nashville went eight shotless minutes to start the third.
"We didn’t feel we played great," Fisher said. "Offensively we didn’t generate a ton. Pekka played unbelievable. We’ll take the win."
Tampa Bay center Cedric Paquette returned after missing six games with an upper body injury and sent Mattias Ekholm onto the Lightning bench with a big check in the second.
NOTES: Nashville LW James Neal (upper body) missed his sixth straight game. … Predators LW Viktor Stalberg (lower body) played after missing one game, while C Matt Cullen (lower body) sat out his second straight. … Tampa Bay LW Brenden Morrow didn’t play due to an upper body injury. … The Lightning signed F Brayden Point to a three-year entry-level contract. … Nashville reassigned LW Kevin Fiala to Milwaukee of the AHL.