NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Craig Smith keeps putting himself in the right spot for the Nashville Predators.
Smith had a goal and an assist, Pekka Rinne made 29 saves and Nashville beat the Colorado Avalanche 5-2 on Saturday night.
Smith opened the scoring with 35 seconds remaining in the first period. With Nashville on a power play, goalie Semyon Varlamov stopped P.K. Subban’s slap shot from the blue line, but Smith was in front and able to put the rebound in for his seventh goal.
Five of Smith’s goals have come on the power play, tying him with Filip Forsberg for the team lead.
“The gear and the speed that he’s playing at is such a high level right now,” Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. “It puts him in areas to score goals and it makes it difficult to defend him.”
Colton Sissons, Anthony Bitetto, Mattias Ekholm and Viktor Arvidsson also scored for Nashville, winners of six of seven.
Subban, Roman Josi and Kevin Fiala each had two assists.
Andrei Mironov had a goal and an assist and J.T. Compher also scored for Colorado, which has lost four of five. Varlamov had 19 saves.
Nashville has defeated the Avalanche eight straight times.
Bitetto got his first ever goal at Bridgestone Arena with a slap shot from above the left circle midway through the second period that proved to be the winner.
“It’s about time, I’ve been here for three years now,” Bitetto said with a laugh following the game. “The goals are a plus, but defend well, that’s kind of what I’ve got to do.”
Nashville accrued 21 penalty minutes in the first period but didn’t allow a goal. Colorado came up empty in 10:50 of power play time in the period, including a 5-minute opportunity after Austin Watson was assessed a major penalty for boarding following his late hit on Dominic Toninato.
Watson also received a game misconduct. Toninato, making his NHL debut, left the ice after the hit but later returned in the second period.
“That five-minute power play, we just didn’t execute,” Colorado coach Jared Bednar said. “We had some plays to make on our reverses and plays that could have gave us possession in the zone, and we didn’t make the right play or they knocked it down with their sticks.”
The Avalanche went 0 for 7 on the power play overall, with 16:54 on the man advantage.
“We had a couple of grade-A scoring chances on the power play,” captain Gabriel Landeskog said. “I got one in the slot. We’ve just got to be better on the power play.”
Rinne’s best save came with three seconds remaining in the second. With Colorado on a power play, Rinne slid from the right post to the left to get his left leg pad on a one-timer off Landeskog’s stick from the left faceoff dot.
“All in all, we did a really good job on the PK tonight, gutsy kills,” Rinne said. “The end of the second period, that last save, that was big.”
Sissons made it 2-0 at 9:11 of the second, finishing off a tic-tac-toe passing play set up by Nick Bonino and Josi. Ekholm and Arvidsson made it 5-0 with goals in the third.
Mironov ended Rinne’s shutout at 15:23 of the third with his first goal of the season. Compher scored at 18:15.
NOTES: Ekholm has goals in three consecutive games, a career high. … Nashville is 9-1-2 when leading after two periods this season. … Colorado had scored at least one power-play goal in its last three games. … Avalanche C Alexander Kerfoot assisted on both goals.
Avalanche: At Detroit on Sunday night.
Predators: Host Winnipeg on Monday night.
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