The red-hot Nashville Predators continued their winning ways as three different goal scorers led the way offensively, and Pekka Rinne made 36 saves in a 3-1 Martin Luther King Jr. Day matinee victory over the New York Islanders at Nassau Memorial Veterans Coliseum.
With the win, Nashville currently possesses the NHL's longest winning streak at five games, and have now won eight of their last nine contests. The Predators sit just one point behind the Detroit Red Wings, two points behind the St. Louis Blues, and trail the Chicago Blackhawks by four points in the Western Conference's Central Division.
Having suffered the fourth defeat in their last six games, the Islanders continued their stay in the Atlantic Division basement. With just 38 points, New York is tied with the Tampa Bay Lightning for the bottom spot in the Eastern Conference.
Winger Sergei Kostitsyn scored at the 2:17 of the first period, taking a pass from defenseman Ryan Ellis at center ice and carried the puck into the Islanders' zone. He slowed down to allow traffic to move to the New York net, then fired a wrist shot from the slot past screened Isles' netminder Kevin Poulin for his 11th goal of the season to give the Preds a 1-0 lead. After managing just five goals in his first 32 games this year, Kostitsyn now had goals in each of his last three contests, and six in the last seven.
Nashville added to their lead just over three minutes later, as Matt Halischuk knocked down a Steve Staios clearing attempt into the Predators' zone and headed the other way. Halischuk took full advantage as Staios fell down at the Islanders' blue line, cutting down the right side and snapping a shot from the right hash marks past Poulin for his 10th goal of the season to give the Preds a 2-0 cushion.
The Predators increased their lead six minutes later, providing the highlight of the afternoon with a gorgeous three-way passing play. Martin Erat carried the puck on a rush through center ice, dishing off to David Legwand at the red line. As he entered the New York zone, Legwand left a drop pass for the trailing Colin Wilson, and continued heading for the net. Wilson sent a perfect pass to Erat, who was all alone to Poulin's left. As Poulin prepared for the shot he was anticipating from Erat, the slick winger sent a goalmouth pass to Legwand, who made no mistake with three-quarters of the net with which to shoot. Legwand's team-leading 13th goal of the year staked Nashville to a 3-0 lead after the opening stanza,
After facing just six shots in the first period, Rinne was spectacular in stopping 30 of 31 shots over the last two frames. Islanders' forward John Tavares spoiled Rinne's shutout bid with only 3:58 remaining in regulation, deflecting a Matt Moulson shot past the Preds' goaltender for his 16th goal of the season.
It also kept Tavares' point streak alive at nine games,, a stretch that has seen the Islanders' first-overall pick in the 2009 draft post five goals and 16 points.
Rinne has won eight of his last nine starts, and is now 14-2 in his last 16 decisions.