LOS ANGELES (AP) — Although Pekka Rinne is an elite NHL goalie by any measure, he had to wait six games and eight shootout rounds to earn his first victory of the season for the low-scoring Nashville Predators.
If that’s the type of season he’s facing, Nashville’s sturdy Finnish goalie will keep trying to carry his teammates past the Los Angeles Kings and the rest of the West.
Sergei Kostitsyn scored in the eighth round, and the Predators snapped their three-game skid with a 2-1 victory over the Kings on Thursday night.
Rinne made 23 saves and stopped five of Los Angeles’ eight shootout attempts as the Predators survived another weak offensive performance thanks to Rinne’s sturdiness and a timely shot by Kostitsyn, who finally ended the lengthy shootout two rounds shy of the longest in Kings history.
“I’ve been putting a lot of pressure on myself,” said Rinne, a Vezina Trophy finalist with Los Angeles’ Jonathan Quick last season. “It’s been a tough go so far, but hopefully this will change the course of how things have been going.”
Brandon Yip scored 58 seconds into the Predators’ fifth stop on a seven-game trip, but Nashville managed just one shot in a 29:20 stretch shortly afterward — perhaps no surprise for the team that’s last in the NHL in shots per game.
“We’ve still got to do a better job of getting shots on net and getting that traffic in front that we’ve been working on in practice,” Yip said. “You can’t win too many games getting that amount of shots, but we clamped down defensively and did a great job.”
Nashville hasn’t figured out how to compensate for the absence of top goal-scorer Patric Hornqvist, who sprained his knee last weekend in Anaheim. Nobody has more than Erat’s four points in the Preds’ first seven games, and high-priced defenseman Shea Weber is among the players who haven’t scored at all.
Yet thanks to Rinne, the Predators sneaked out of Staples Center with just their third win in their last 10 meetings with the Kings.
“You knew those first few games it was going to take some time to adjust and play together, but I didn’t think it was going to take this long,” Rinne said. “We still have so many areas that we have to be better. Tonight, I think we finally played a team game, which is what we needed to do.”
Captain Dustin Brown scored his first goal of the season for the defending Stanley Cup champions, who are off to a 2-2-2 start.
Quick stopped 13 shots for the Kings, whose NHL-worst power play went 1 for 6 while Nashville and Los Angeles slogged through a largely dull game between two of the league’s lowest-scoring teams featuring no goals in the final 46 minutes of regulation or overtime. The Kings limited Nashville to 11 shots in regulation, but still couldn’t shake Rinne and his solid defense.
“I’d take that game most nights,” Brown said. “Limited them to less than 15 shots, not many Grade-A scoring chances. I think we played the first two periods almost entirely in their zone. We’ve just got to figure out some ways to score goals.”
Nashville only got rolling in overtime, getting three shots and most of the good scoring chances, but Nick Spaling appeared to miss an open net on the best opportunity.
David Legwand and Craig Smith scored on the Predators’ first two shootout attempts, but after Mike Richards and Brown beat Rinne with change-of-pace goals, and Martin Erat missed his chance to end it for Nashville.
Three of the next four rounds were scoreless. After Simon Gagne missed to open the eighth round, Kostitsyn beat Quick for Nashville’s third win in its last 10 meetings with Los Angeles.
“It just comes down to details,” Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. “They scored a faceoff goal. Other than that, (Nashville) had probably three or four opportunities. We’re still not getting goals out of players than we need to count on to score.”
Brown got Los Angeles’ only goal during 4-on-3 play in the first period, sweeping home a fortunate rebound of Drew Doughty’s wild shot off the glass. While Brown had only one assist to show for the Kings’ first five games, Doughty hadn’t even scored a point since his outstanding postseason run for Los Angeles.
The Predators played the final 16:19 of the first period without recording a shot, and Legwand recorded their only shot in the first 13:01 of the second period. Nashville dumped and chased with little success, and its power play was thoroughly ineffectual against the Kings, whose own power play has struggled mightily all season.
NOTES: The clubs meet again in Nashville on Feb. 7 when the Predators finally return from their road trip — and then must make a one-game trip to Minnesota. … The Kings sold out Staples Center for their 29th consecutive regular-season game. … Los Angeles F Dustin Penner was a healthy scratch for the fourth straight game. … Southern California native Jonathon Blum was scratched again by Nashville.