By Pat Graham, AP Sports Writer
Craig Smith scored twice, Pekka Rinne stopped 28 shots and the struggling Nashville Predators routed the Colorado Avalanche 5-1 on Tuesday night.
Ryan Johansen and Matt Irwin each scored his first goal of the season, while Roman Josi added an insurance goal late for the Predators, who won their first road game of the season.
Staked to a two-goal lead heading into the third period, Rinne easily made it hold up as he improved to 16-7-2 in his career against the Avalanche.
Jarome Iginla scored NHL goal No. 613. He’s 12 behind Colorado Hall-of-Famer-turned-GM Joe Sakic for 15th place on the all-time scoring list.
Colorado captain Gabriel Landeskog attempted to fire up his team 68 seconds into the third period by dropping the gloves and fighting with Austin Watson. The two traded punches before falling to the ice. Both received five-minute penalties for fighting.
The Avalanche definitely had more zest.
But Rinne & Co. were up for the challenge. Rinne stopped Joe Colborne’s blast midway through the final period. Moments later, Nashville defenseman Ryan Ellis slid across the goal on his knees to knock away a puck headed for the net.
It was that kind of night for Nashville, which kept constant pressure on Avalanceh goaltender Semyon Varlamov.
Josi tapped in a goal with 7:51 left to secure the win. Smith scored his second goal of the game 1:09 later.
Johansen’s power-play goal at 11:47 of the second period gave the Predators a 3-1 lead. That snapped a string of 12 straight penalty kills by Colorado’s defense.
Smith got the Predators on the board before many fans were even seated as he knocked in a pass from Mike Ribeiro at 1:33.
Colorado countered when Iginla scored less than five minutes later. Almost fitting, the 39-year-old Iginla broke out of a five-game goal slump in this game, considering his 39 career goals are the most against the Nashville franchise.
Not that Colorado coach Jared Bednar was remotely worried about his prolific goal scorer.
“I like the way Jarome’s playing right now,” Bednar said. “He’s our emotional leader.”
Irwin lined in a wrist shot late in the first period for his first goal since March 28, 2015, at Philadelphia. The defenseman was recalled from Milwaukee of American Hockey League on Oct. 24.