Predators beat Avs 4-1, Laviolette earns 600th win
AP Sports Writer
DENVER — Peter Laviolette and his goaltender had a lot in common — both were skillful in the art of deflecting.
In Laviolette’s case, it was too much of the credit after earning victory No. 600 as an NHL coach.
“Tonight was a team win,” the Predators coach said.
On a milestone Monday for Laviolette, goaltender Pekka Rinne stopped a penalty shot in making 35 saves and Nashville knocked off the reeling Colorado Avalanche 4-1.
Laviolette became the 20th coach in NHL history to reach the 600-win milestone and the third this season as he joined John Tortorella and Claude Julien. Laviolette also had stints with the New York Islanders, Carolina Hurricanes and the Philadelphia Flyers before stepping in with the Predators in 2014-15.
He gave plenty of kudos to his players for the achievement.
“Coming off a couple losses and playing Colorado, a team behind us in the standings, an important win for our guys,” Laviolette said. “I’m just thankful for not only this team but teams previous. It’s been an accumulation of four different teams.
“Fortunate to be in the game and stay in the game — greatest job in the world.”
Nick Bonino and Viktor Arvidsson scored 1:34 apart in the second period, while Roman Josi added another and Ryan Ellis contributed a late empty-netter from deep in his zone. The Predators maintained their mastery of the Avalanche, beating their Central Division rivals for a 12th time over the last 13 regular-season meetings.
Rinne was at a loss to explain the success.
“We seem to match up pretty good against them. At the same time, I have a ton of respect toward that team,” Rinne said. “It’s a very good hockey team.”
Alexander Kerfoot had the lone goal for an Avalanche squad that’s dropped five of seven.
Colorado was coming off a 7-1 win over Los Angeles on Saturday in which the team tied a franchise record with six goals in the second period. The scoring spree didn’t carry over. The Avs haven’t won two straight games since late November.
“I have no problem with the way we played today,” Colorado coach Jared Bednar said. “We made a couple mistakes, they capitalized. They made lots of mistakes too, we didn’t capitalize. To me the difference was Rinne.”
Rinne’s biggest save came on a penalty shot by Matt Nieto in the second period to keep the game scoreless. Bonino soon followed by lining a shot between the pads of Semyon Varlamov. The Predators are 23-2-1 when scoring first.
“I tried,” Nieto said of his penalty shot that was thwarted by Rinne’s right pad. “It didn’t work out.”
Bonino breathed a sigh of relief. On the play, he tried to lift the stick of Nieto, which got Nieto on the hands and led to the penalty shot.
“(Rinne) was ready — cool, calm, collected — and made a good save,” Bonino said.
Moments later, Bonino scored his 100th NHL goal. Arvidsson then increased the lead with his 11th goal in 14 games since returning from a broken thumb.
Kerfoot made it 2-1 with a tip-in at 16:43 of the second period, but Josi quickly restored the two-goal cushion by lifting a shot over Varlamov following a pinpoint pass from Austin Watson.
The first period was filled with plenty of pushing and a few punches. Things got a little heated when Watson took offense to Avalanche defenseman Nikita Zadorov delivering a big hit on a teammate. Watson challenged Zadorov to drop the gloves, and they squared off before being separated and sent to the penalty box.
Nieto agitated the Predators later in the period when he stopped in front of Rinne, sending a spray of ice into the goaltender’s face.
Avalanche All-Star forward Mikko Rantanen returned after sitting out the third period against the Kings with a lower-body injury. He said at practice Sunday that “everything is fine.”
Their recent play is another matter.
“There are some positive things,” Rantanen said. “But it was tough to find the back of the net.”
NOTES: Predators C Ryan Johansen served the second of a two-game suspension for a high stick on Winnipeg’s Mark Scheifele. … Avalanche D Erik Johnson (head) was in the concussion protocol and missed the game.
Predators: The second of a three-game trip will be Wednesday in Las Vegas against the Golden Knights.
Avalanche: Host Minnesota on Wednesday before not playing again until Feb. 2.
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