DENVER (AP) — Pekka Rinne stopped 32 shots to lift the Nashville Predators to a 5-1 win Thursday night over a Colorado Avalanche squad that learned hours earlier that forward Tomas Fleischmann would be out for the rest of the season with blood clots in his lungs.
Sergei Kostitsyn, Cody Franson, Matt Halischuk, David Legwand and Colin Wilson scored for the surging Predators, who have won nine of 11.
Rinne came up big all night, but his shutout bid ended when Matt Duchene scored with 3:37 remaining.
It was a difficult day for the Avs as Fleischmann, one of their top scorers, was diagnosed with two blood clots, one in each of his lungs. He complained of shortness of breath following the morning skate.
The team said the 26-year-old left wing will be on blood thinners for several months and will be held out of action. He should be able to resume his career following treatment.
Rinne improved to 8-1 over his last nine starts, giving up less than two goals a game during that stretch.
Ryan Stoa nearly scored in the second period by tapping in a rebound, but the referee signaled for play to continue.
Once action was stopped, the call was reviewed for quite some time and overhead shots appeared to show the puck bouncing in and then back out upon hitting the pads of Rinne, who was deep inside the net.
The call on the ice was upheld, upsetting Colorado coach Joe Sacco, who briefly chatted with the officials before waving his arms in disgust.
Leading 2-0 heading into the third period, the Predators broke the game open with three quick scores. It was the second straight game in which Nashville scored five times, which matches a season high.
Nashville jumped out to a quick lead, scoring twice in the opening period. Kostitsyn knocked in a wrist shot, his 12th goal of the season, and Franson later followed with a shot into the corner of the net.
The loss of Fleischmann is a blow to the Avs, who entered the game with the fourth-highest scoring squad in the NHL. General manager Greg Sherman said he would to chat with Sacco before making any decisions on who might fill in for Fleischmann.
The team just sent forward T.J. Galiardi to Lake Erie of the American Hockey League to increase his confidence level after going into a slump since his return from a broken right wrist. Sherman said he wasn’t sure if Galiardi would be an option to return.
Defenseman Kyle Cumiskey was back against Nashville after being out with a concussion since Oct. 30. He said before the game he would wear a helmet that offered more protection.
NOTES: This was Colorado’s first meeting with Nashville this season, leaving Anaheim as the only Western Conference foe the team has yet to face. … Predators F Marek Svatos missed the game with a lower-body injury. Svatos was a seventh-round pick in 2001 by Colorado. … Stoa was recalled from Lake Erie on Wednesday. … Predators F Patric Hornqvist finished with two assists.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)