Nashville Predators\' Jordin Tootoo (22) and Columbus Blue Jackets\' Aaron Johnson (5) work for the puck in the first period of an NHL hockey game in Columbus, Ohio, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2012. (AP Photo/Paul Vernon)
COLUMBUS, Ohio - The Nashville Predators followed a familiar script to another win: a staunch defence, 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.