Ottawa Senators left wing Nick Foligno (71) celebrates with Milan Michalek (9), of the Czech Republic, and Filip Kuba (17), of the Czech Republic, after Foligno scored against the Nashville Predators in the second period of an NHL hockey game on Thursday, Dec. 23, 2010, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Ottawa goalie Brian Elliott left his critics speechless after making 25 saves in the Senators' 2-1 victory over the Nashville Predators On Thursday night.
"Brian should be praised when he plays well like he did in this game," Ottawa defenceman Chris Phillips said. "When he was called upon he made some huge saves for us."
It was the third loss in a row for the Predators.
"You need to have the goaltender be your backbone," Ottawa coach Cory Clouston said. "He doesn't always have to win you games, but he needs to be solid and give you confidence. When your goaltender does that it allows you to play your game a lot more relaxed and a lot more comfortable.
"Brian showed up big for us. We need him to do that. He has had some criticism thrown at him the last little while. It was nice to see him respond the way he did."
As the backup, Elliott leads the Senators' goalies in wins with 11 and games played with 25.
Elliott made seven stops in the third period to shut down the Predators. He got a lot of help from his teammates in those final 20 minutes as they continued to press the attack.
"You always feel good when guys are playing and keeping everything to the outside," Elliott said. "I was able to see a lot of pucks which was good. There wasn't a lot of traffic in front, but when there was we cleared the rebounds.
"We did the little things that we have kind of lacked in parts of other games. Our guys were doing anything they could to protect the lead. We were all working hard out there and we put it together as a group."
The Senators improved to 7-8-2 on the road.
"It was a very solid road win," Clouston said. "We did a lot of good things. We didn't try to be too fast. We kept things simple for the most part. The last six or seven games we have played well. Unfortunately we haven't always come up with win."
Kovalev opened the scoring at 9:35 of the first period, beating goalie Pekka Rinne with a shot from in front of the crease. Rinne was making his first appearance after missing the past nine games recovering from arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. He stopped 28 shots.
"I feel fine," Rinne said. "I think it was a good game to test that knee. It feels strong and it feels healthy."
The Senators scored again from close range at 4:57 of the second period. A shot by Milan Michalek on the power play bounced off of one of Rinne's skates. Foligno controlled the rebound and put it in the right side of net with a wrist shot from in front of the crease as Rinne was out of position to the left side.
Nashville's Marcel Goc cut it to 2-1 at 7:16 of the second when he beat Elliott with a tip-in from a few feet front of the crease.
Nashville's Martin Erat took a shot on a breakaway and then lost control and crumpled to the ice with 8:06 left in the second period. He skated off of the ice, but did not return due to an upper body injury.
"I really don't know what to say," Trotz said. "We have a couple of days off and he will be evaluated."
Ottawa has struggled to protect leads. Clouston was pleased that the third period shutdown of the Predators was a team effort.
"We didn't sit back in the third period," Clouston said. "We managed the puck well. We didn't give Nashville a whole lot. We kept most things on the perimeter. We clogged up the neutral zone. I think we frustrated them."
The Predators have scored one goal in each of their last three games.
"Against Chicago Wednesday night everything on offence was one-and-done," Trotz said. "We had a little more zone time against Ottawa. We had a lot more energy and commitment and a little more detail but we still lost."
NOTES: This was the second game of a back-to-back for the Predators who have played seven sets of back-to-backs this season. ... This is the only meeting between the two teams this season. ... Ottawa goalie Pascal Leclaire did not make the trip to Nashville due to a lower body injury, but could play Sunday. ... In the final three minutes of the third period, Nashville's Steve Sullivan left the ice and did not return.His injury was not specified.