Nashville Predators right wing Patric Hornqvist, left, of Sweden, shoots on Minnesota Wild Niklas Backstrom (32), of Finland, in the first period of their NHL hockey game in St. Paul, Minn., Friday, Dec. 31, 2010. (AP Photo/Andy King)
ST. PAUL, Minn. - The Nashville Predators were finally rewarded for playing well.
Pekka Rinne made 22 saves and the Predators beat the Minnesota Wild 4-1 on Friday to end their losing streak at five games.
Cody Franson, Patric Hornqvist, Joel Ward and Sergei Kostitsyn scored for Nashville. Struggling offensively, the Predators have scored nine goals in their past six games.
"It was a solid game and everybody worked hard for each other. When we do that it's going to be hard to beat us," Hornqvist said. "It's a great feeling in the locker room, and was all the time on the bench."
The same can't be said about the frustrated team down the hall.
Chuck Kobasew scored late for Minnesota, which lost for the second time in three games and was loudly booed off the ice after the second period. The Wild are 3-6-1 in their last 10 home games.
"We weren't executing. We weren't sharp. They were sharper than we were and that was the difference in the game," Minnesota centre John Madden said. "I'm not going to sit here like I have all the answers."
Rinne won for the first time in four starts since returning from a left knee injury that sidelined him for eight games. He made two of his best saves during a third-period penalty kill, hugging the post to stop Martin Havlat from in close and squaring up to deny Matt Cullen on a slapshot from the left circle. Defenceman Francis Bouillon made a big block on Mikko Koivu after Minnesota got within a goal in the final minutes.
"It's hard to say when you're losing games that you feel like your old self, but I feel like I've been playing well, I'm just not getting the results," Rinne said.
That has been the case for the team as a whole lately, and coach Barry Trotz wasn't surprised the streak-breaking win didn't come easily.
"The previous two games I really felt victimized because we were the better team, but sometimes it doesn't show up on the scoreboard as you'd like," Trotz said. "Tonight, we had a lot of chances we missed. A couple of times we could have buried them with the third goal, but we didn't. I think it was a little test for us that we're not going to make it easy, and we're going to test your sternness, your mentality and your resolve a little bit."
For the first time in seven games, Nashville scored first when Franson beat a screened Niklas Backstrom with a slapshot from the blue-line 4:37 into the game.
Hornqvist made it 2-0 midway through the second period, tipping a slapshot from Shea Weber behind Backstrom while fighting off a lacklustre defensive effort by Jared Spurgeon.
Ward and Kostitsyn scored empty-net goals.
Backstrom got the start despite a scare in practice Thursday when he was run into by defenceman Marco Scandella and fell to the ice grabbing his knee. Backstrom stopped 28 shots.
Kobasew scored with 1:54 remaining, tipping in a shot from Havlat. It was his third goal in as many games.
"It was a little too late at the end. We almost came back, but almost doesn't count," Havlat said.
NOTES: Wild RW Cal Clutterbuck, the NHL leader with 165 hits, missed the game because of what the team called a "nagging injury." He played in the Wild's first 36 games of the season. ... RW Marek Svatos made his debut for the Predators. He was claimed off waivers from St. Louis on Wednesday, after signing with the Blues Tuesday. Svatos, who played the last six seasons with Colorado, started the season in Russia's Kontinental Hockey League. ... Nashville C David Legwand, who had missed nine straight games and played just once since Nov. 18 because of a lower-body injury, had two assists. ... Minnesota allowed two empty-net goals for the first time in franchise history.