Rinne notches 3rd shutout of season, Predators top Leafs 4-0
“We got a lesson from a veteran team,” Babcock said. “In the third period in particular … they just stayed patient.
“They were heavy on the puck, heavy on their sticks, detailed, blocked shots, competed. I liked their game.”
Michael Hutchinson stopped 28 shots for the Maple Leafs, who hit the post three times and had a goal called back for offside.
Nashville improved to a league-best 22-2-0 when leading through two periods.
“Defensively, we played a great game,” said Rinne, who had 23 shots blocked in front of him. “They have a dangerous team.”
The Maple Leafs were coming off one of their most complete performances of the season in Saturday’s 5-0 shutout of Vancouver, but have lost three of their last four after a five-game winning streak.
“It was a tight game,” Leafs center John Tavares said. “They’ve been through a lot of battles over the last few years and have really proven themselves and know how to win.”
The Predators were playing for the third in in four nights. They opened their season-long six-game trip with a 4-3 overtime loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Friday — a performance that head coach Peter Laviolette described as “awful” — and then beat the Montreal Canadiens 4-1 on Saturday.
“The past two games, that Preds hockey,” Subban said. “That’s the way we play when we’re playing our best. We make it tough.”
Rinne is now tied with Marc-Andre Fleury, Bernie Parent and Ed Giacomin for 21st on the all-time shutout list.
After a scoreless opening 20 minutes, the Predators went ahead at 4:08 of the second period when Ekholm’s shot from the point, through traffic, beat Hutchinson for his fifth of the season.
Ekholm has 29 points in 43 games. His career best was 35 points in 2015-16.
Toronto appeared to tie the game 43 seconds later when Auston Matthews connected on a no-look pass from Andreas Johnsson. But the goal was called back after the Predators correctly challenged that William Nylander was just ahead of the play.
After Rinne stopped Johnsson in front, Subban made it 2-0 with his fourth goal at 13:11. The Predators won an offensive zone faceoff before the Nashville defenseman, who was playing his seventh game back after missing 19 with an upper-body injury, ripped a one-timer that deflected off Nylander’s stick at the point and sailed past Hutchinson.
“He’s got to get better,” Babcock said of Nylander. “All the details, all the compete, all that stuff has just got to keep getting better.
“The urgency level has to be there.”
Subban, a Toronto native whose parents were on hand at Scotiabank Arena, dropped to one knee and pumped his fist in celebration at center ice, before being congratulated by teammates.
Rinne stopped Mitch Marner late in the period as Toronto managed just 14 shots through 40 minutes.
Nashville, which came in having won three of its last four on the heels of a six-game skid, got a power play early in the third. The best chance came on a partial breakaway by Toronto center Frederik Gauthier, who shot over the Predators’ goal.
Toronto got its third opportunity with the man advantage later in the period, but Matthews hit the post for the second time with Rinne out of position.
Hutchinson kept his team in it with a glove save on Viktor Arvidsson with six minute left in regulation, but lost control of a rebound and Sissons scored his eighth with 2:37 left in regulation.
Fiala added his eighth goal with 37.3 seconds left.
Matthews blasted a shot off the post for the game’s first real chance before Filip Forsberg, who returned to the Nashville lineup after missing 17 games with a hand injury, forced a good stop by Hutchinson at the other end.
NOTES: Leafs head coach Mike Babcock said before the game he doesn’t know when Andersen (groin) or Sparks (concussion) will return to action. Andersen has practiced twice in recent days. … Despite his prolonged absence, Forsberg’s 14 goals are still tied with Craig Smith for Nashville’s team lead heading into Monday.
Predators: At Chicago on Wednesday.
Maple Leafs: At New Jersey on Thursday.
More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports