Nashville Predators defensemen Ryan Suter, left, and Shea Weber, right, break up a play by Colorado Avalanche right wing David Jones, center, in the first period of an NHL hockey game on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2012, in Denver. (AP Photo/Chris Schneider)
DENVER - A quick start helped the Nashville Predators keep up their dominance against the Colorado Avalanche.
Pekka Rinne had 32 saves, Martin Erat and Ryan Ellis each had a goal and an assist and Nashville beat Colorado 4-1 on Tuesday night. Nick Spaling and Patric Hornqvist also scored for the Predators, who have won two straight and five of their last six.
Nashville has won six straight against the Avalanche dating back to the 2009-10 season. Rinne was in net for all four of the Predators' wins over Colorado last year, giving up an average of two goals a game.
"Our system has countered their system pretty well the past couple of years," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "I don't have any one thing I can say we've done, but our goaltender's been a big key."
Rinne took a shutout late into the second period in this game before Colorado spoiled it. By then his teammates had given him a cushion to work with to improve to 8-3 all time against the Avalanche.
"We seem to match up pretty well against them," Rinne said. "I'm not saying it's easy. They had a pretty good second period, but we weathered the storm in the second period pretty well."
Ryan O'Reilly scored for Colorado and Semyon Varlamov settled down after a shaky start to finish with 22 saves. The Avalanche have lost two straight after winning 11 of 13.
"There's no excuses. It's our decision out there, how we play," O'Reilly said. "It wasn't our best. I don't think we were committed right away and it took a while to get that, to regroup as a team."
Spaling got Nashville on the board first with his sixth goal of the season just 4:31 into the game. He skated through the Avalanche defence and knocked in a pass by Jordin Tootoo from behind the net.
"It's nice to score," Spaling said. "It's been a while and you always want to contribute offensively."
Ellis made it 2-0 a little over three minutes later when he scored 24 seconds into T.J. Galiardi's tripping minor. Erat finished the rally with his ninth goal of the season at the 15:05 mark of the first.
"We had a lot of energy, we came out hard and I think we might have surprised them a bit," Ellis said.
Colorado had only six shots in the first period but ratcheted up the pressure in the second. The Avalanche had 18 shots in the second and finally broke through on the power play when O'Reilly stuck his blade out and tipped a centring pass from Paul Stastny over Rinne's right shoulder with 36 seconds left in the period. It was O'Reilly's 11th goal of the season.
Colorado kept up the pressure in the third period, but Nashville got the only goal.
"If we had played the game like we played the second period and some of the third period we may have had an opportunity for a different outcome," Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said.
The Predators didn't get their first shot on goal in the third until there was 8:58 left and had only seven in the period, but Hornqvist made one of them count when he scored with 4:26 left. It was his 12th goal of the season.
NOTES: The teams will play the second game of a home-and-home Thursday in Nashville. ... Colorado's last win against Nashville was Jan. 22, 2010. ... The Avalanche were without defencemen Erik Johnson (hand) and Shane O'Brien (knee), who were injured in Saturday's loss at St. Louis. Johnson is day to day and O'Brien is out indefinitely. ... Nashville has nine first-period goals in its last five games.