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Rinne makes 41 saves as Predators top Blues 3-1

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP)

Pekka Rinne's stellar play in January is spilling over into February.

Rinne made 42 saves, and Martin Erat had a goal and two assists to lead the Nashville Predators to a 3-1 win over the St. Louis Blues on Saturday night.

The Predators have won six of seven, while the Blues have dropped three of four.

Mike Fisher and Sergei Kostitsyn also scored for Nashville.

Chris Porter had the lone goal for St. Louis.

It was the fourth meeting of the season between the Central Division rivals, with Nashville winning all four matchups so far. The Predators are 12-2-2 against the Central this season.

Erat scored the game's first goal at 6:59 of the opening period. With the Predators on the power play, Erat moved away from the right point before firing a slap shot over the glove of St. Louis goaltender Jaroslav Halak.

''The division is so hard, and we have to take all the points we can right now,'' Erat said. ''It's a battle to the end because in the end, we always have to play against St. Louis, Detroit, and Chicago.''

Fisher doubled the Nashville lead with 7:30 to go in the first. Sergei Kostitsyn had the puck behind the St. Louis goal and found Fisher in the low slot. After a quick toe-drag, Fisher beat Halak with a wrist shot high to the stick side.

Fisher has six goals in his last five games.

One night after recording his fifth shutout of the season, Halak was again strong in goal for St. Louis in making 34 saves. He is now 12-2-3 in his last 17 starts.

''I thought we were better in the first, they were way, way better in the second, and we were better in the third,'' St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock said. ''We just had too many passengers in the second period.''

Porter cut the deficit to 2-1 at 4:01 of the third period. Inside the Nashville zone, Porter picked the pocket of Predators rookie defenseman Roman Josi in the slot. After the takeaway from Josi, Porter fired a wrist shot by a surprised Rinne.

''I was just trying to force him into making a play, and I was able to get my stick in between his,'' Porter said. ''He just turned it over and I just put it to the net.''

With intense St. Louis pressure in the late minutes, Rinne showed why he is the league's reigning Third Star of the month.

Rinne twice denied defenseman Kris Russell late in the third, first with 8:42 remaining and then again 5 seconds later. On the second save, Rinne dove to his left after being knocked out of position making the first save on Russell.

''It was just desperation,'' Rinne said of the second save on Russell. ''It was nice to get that obviously. It was a big save at the time. It was one of those saves that denies a sure goal.''

Rinne made 16 saves in the first, seven in the second and 19 in the third in recording his 30th win of the season. He has won a franchise-record 11 consecutive games.

The save on Russell impressed Predators head coach Barry Trotz.

''There's not too many goaltenders in this league who would make that save,'' Trotz said. ''That's why I keep saying, `He's the best one.'''

Kostitsyn closed the scoring on an empty-netter with 22.1 seconds remaining.

Notes: St. Louis C Jason Arnott missed the game with a shoulder injury. Arnott, who captained the Predators for three seasons, has missed just two games this season, both in Nashville. ... Nashville RW Brian McGrattan played after being a healthy scratch for six consecutive games. ... Predators RW Matt Halischuk played in his 100th career NHL game.

Tagged: Martin Erat, Mike Fisher, Pekka Rinne, Jaroslav Halak, Sergei Kostitsyn, Chris Porter, Blues, Predators, Blue Jackets, Kris Russell

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