Predators try not to let Bruins ruin their win streak

After missing five games with a knee injury, Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne came back with quite the bang Thursday night in Tampa Bay.

Rinne stoned the Lightning with 42 saves in Nashville’s 4-1 win, more or less stealing two points on an evening when the Predators were outshot 43-24 and outhit 29-16. Needless to say, rust wasn’t a part of his game after a 13-day layoff.

“He was unbelievable,” Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. “He looked really sharp to me … he was brilliant, and he needed to be.”

Rinne (4-1-0, 1.91 goals-against average, .940 save percentage) figures to be back in net Saturday night for the Predators’ last home game before their yearly CMA road trip as they take on the Boston Bruins in Bridgestone Arena.

Nashville (10-3-0) owns the NHL’s best record and is off to the fastest start through 13 games in franchise history. It is again proving its ability to win any type of game, as shown by its league-leading plus-16 goal differential, and is flashing the depth that helped it finish with the league’s best record last season.

The Predators won Thursday night with first-line right winger Viktor Arvidsson (lower-body injury) on the shelf. No matter. Rinne came up big, Kyle Turris came up with a ridiculous goal off an off-balance deflection and center Ryan Johansen set up two goals with passes straight out of a video game.

Johansen’s blind, backhand pass from the left half-wall to Roman Josi for a goal with less than seven seconds left in the first period belongs on any highlight video.

“If you look at the replay, he takes a little peek and makes that spin-o-rama pass,” Rinne said of Johansen. “It was pretty unreal, a beautiful goal. I wasn’t surprised, but it was pretty cool to see in a game.”

While some might carp that Johansen doesn’t shoot enough, and with some justification, he still leads the team in scoring with two goals and 13 assists. His linemates, Arvidsson and Filip Forsberg, have accounted for 18 goals, so it’s not like Johansen has needed to shoot.

Should Arvidsson return from his injury, it will create a big-time matchup of first lines. Boston has one of the best around in David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, and they were on fire Tuesday night in a 3-2 win at Carolina.

Marchand scored the tying and winning goals, and Pastrnak scored the first goal. Bergeron had helpers on all three goals.

In the Bruins’ 7-3-2 start, the line has combined for 22 goals, including a league-leading 11 by Pastrnak, and an absurd 50 points.

Marchand’s goals broke a six-game stretch without a goal.

“It’s kind of how he is,” Bergeron said. “He makes something happen out of nothing so we just try to send him and after that, he finds a way.”

Jaroslav Halak (4-0-2, 1.51, .947) has bounced back from a couple of off-years with the New York Islanders to help Boston get off to a fast start. He saved 42 shots against the Hurricanes, and has vastly overplayed incumbent Tuukka Rask (3-3-0, 3.15, .902).

The teams split two regular-season games last year, both winning on home ice.