NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tampa Bay started slowly, but Andrei Vasilevskiy was there to pick up his teammates.
Vasilevskiy made 36 saves to lead the Lightning to a 3-0 victory over the Nashville Predators on Saturday night.
Ross Colton, Erik Cernak and Yanni Gourde scored for Tampa Bay, which has won two straight and four of its last six.
The shutout was the fourth of the season for Vasilevskiy and the 25th of his NHL career.
“(Vasilevskiy) was big for us in the first when we needed him,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said. “But then the guys, they stuck to the plan and it worked.”
Pekka Rinne made 31 saves as Nashville snapped its three-game winning streak.
“I thought we had a pretty good 60-minute effort tonight,” Nashville coach John Hynes said. “We played lots to our identity and how we want to be able to play to have success. The unfortunate part is we didn’t get any reward for it.”
Tampa Bay has won six of the seven head-to-head matchups with the Predators this season, including all three played in Nashville so far. The teams complete their season series here Tuesday night.
Vasilevskiy had to be sharp early, as Nashville peppered him with 18 shots in the first period. He denied back-to-back shots from Rocco Grimaldi from close range with just over 6:00 remaining in the period. He also made three saves on a late Nashville power play to keep the game 1-0 going into the first intermission.
“In the second and third, we were trying to play a little bit faster with the puck,” Cernak said. “I think we did a really good job after the first.”
Colton scored the game’s first goal at 6:45 of the opening period. Gourde took a long head-man pass from Mikhail Sergachev at the blue line and skated to the right circle. There he spun and sent a pass to Colton in the slot, where he made a quick move before slipping the puck between Rinne’s pads with a backhand.
“I couldn’t really find the lane, so I spun and I was fortunate enough to hit right on his tape,” Gourde said. “What a finish by the guy. He’s been so good for us. He’s giving us a boost every single night and we follow his lead basically. It’s fun to watch.”
Cernak made it 2-0 at 14:04 of the second. From the high slot, Cernak’s wrist shot first deflected off the stick of Nashville’s Mikael Granlund then the leg of Predators defenseman Ryan Ellis before going past a helpless Rinne on the stick side.
Gourde added an empty-net goal in the game’s final minute.
COLTON’S STREAK CONTINUES
Colton’s first period goal extended his scoring streak to three games. Saturday was the Tampa Bay rookie’s 15th career NHL game and the goal was his seventh. This is his first three-game scoring streak. Colton has scored in five of his last six games.
RARE RINNE APPEARANCE
With Predators goaltender Juuse Saros playing so well, Rinne has not seen much action lately. Rinne made just his third start since March 21. Prior to Saturday, Rinne had won his previous three starts.
The injury-plagued Predators saw one player return to the lineup Saturday. Ellis, who missed the last 20 games with an upper-body injury, played for the first time since Feb. 28.
Ellis appeared to tie the game at a goal apiece early in the second, but Tampa Bay challenged the goal and a video review determined the play to be offside.
“I felt better than expected,” Ellis said. “The team as a whole, it’s like night and day. I feel when I got hurt, every night was a battle and we were working, but nothing was happening for us. Tonight, it felt like years’ past where we were just buzzing in the o-zone making good plays, getting chances.”
Lightning: At Nashville on Tuesday night.
Predators: Host the Dallas Stars on Sunday.