COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - The Nashville Predators followed a familiar script to another win: a staunch defense, superb goaltending and opportunistic scoring.
Pekka Rinne turned aside 38 shots - including 18 in the third period - for his fourth shutout, and Martin Erat had a goal and an assist in a two-minute outburst in the second period to lift the Predators past the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-0 on Thursday night.
Mike Fisher, on the power play, and Shea Weber, with a long short-handed shot into an empty net, also scored for Nashville, which won for the ninth time in 11 games.
``He's been really good,' Nashville coach Barry Trotz said of Rinne, who has won six straight starts and 15 of 17. ``He's been tracking the puck really well. He's an elite goaltender.'
Knowing when to keep the shooting lanes open for Rinne has been a big reason why the Predators have allowed only 20 goals in their last 11 games.
``The number of shots they had were pretty good but I thought we were letting him see a lot of the puck,' Trotz said.
The Blue Jackets had their chances in the final period, but couldn't beat Rinne, who has 24 career shutouts. Rinne stopped a hard slap shot by Rick Nash early in the period and later gobbled up a semi-breakaway shot from Fedor Tyutin.
Derick Brassard couldn't convert into a partially open net on a tough spin-around snapper, and the goaltender got a bit lucky when Vinny Prospal hit the side of the post from close range late.
``Disappointed obviously at the result ... but I feel that we're doing some good things out on the ice,' said interim coach Todd Richards, who dropped to 2-3 since replacing Scott Arnield on Jan. 9. ``He's (Rinne) a world class goalie and the players in front of him trust him.'
Columbus was the last team to be shut out this season. Steve Mason made 22 saves.
Midway through a scoreless, sleepy game, Tyutin gave the Predators all the scoring they would need, essentially gift-wrapping Erat's goal.
The puck came to Tyutin after teammate Samuel Pahlsson won a faceoff at the Nashville blue line. Tyutin sent an off target pass to his defensive partner, instead springing Nashville on a two-on-none with Sergei Kostitsyn forcing Mason to commit before flicking a pass to Erat for the easy score, his 11th, at 11:08.
``It was a waiting game to see who was going to break first defensively,' Erat said.
And with Derek Dorsett in the box for goaltender interference, Fisher, at the left post, tapped in a cross-zone feed from Erat for his ninth goal of the season.
``Our power play has been getting us some big goals,' Fisher said of the third-ranked unit. ``That gave us a big enough lead that Pekka could shut the door.'
NOTES: During the first intermission, Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson announced D Radek Martinek, signed as a free-agent in the summer, will miss the remainder of the season with post-concussion symptoms and that the team signed former Red Wings and Toronto D Brett Lebda to a one-year contract. ... Nashville claimed RW Brandon Yip off waivers from Colorado on Thursday. ... Predators top-pair D Ryan Suter missed his second-straight game with an upper-body injury. ... Nashville is 8-2-2 against the Central Division this season, including a 4-0-1 mark against Columbus.
The Associated Press News Service
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