NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Nashville Predators talk about everything and shy away from nothing.
Right now, they have an awful lot to discuss.
Pekka Rinne stopped 26 shots, Ryan Hartman scored at 5:33 of the third period and the Predators beat the Dallas Stars 2-0 Tuesday night for their franchise-record ninth straight victory.
The Predators extended the NHL’s longest active winning streak. The defending Western Conference champs also lead both the conference and the Central Division by six points, and Nashville topped last season’s point total of 94 with 16 games left.
Only Tampa Bay has more points (96), and Nashville has a game in hand on Tampa Bay.
“We talk about putting your name on something,” Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. “Those are all great opportunities for our club to fight for something. I thought they did.”
Rinne recorded his seventh shutout this season, tying Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy for most in the NHL. Rinne is 17-1-1 over his last 19 games, and this was the 50th shutout of his career. Rinne said the Predators’ stats are pretty remarkable over the last 30 games.
“It’s so much fun right now, nine wins in a row,” Rinne said. “We’re feeling good and the team is fairly healthy and clicking really good right now.”
Nick Bonino scored an empty-netter with 13.6 seconds left after Stars defenseman John Klingberg caught a skate on his own net, causing him to trip and lose the puck.
The Stars, currently in the first wild card spot, lost for the second time in as many nights after falling in overtime Monday night.
“We’ve just going to have to move forward,” Klingberg said. “We can’t be frustrated. We’re still right in the mix there. We’ve still got the wild card spot. We’re just going to have to move on and find a way to score more goals.”
Kari Lehtonen made 32 saves for Dallas.
Mike Fisher was in the starting lineup for his first game back in Nashville since being signed on Feb. 26. He received an ovation 10 seconds into the game during a stoppage in play while a catfish was removed from the ice. Fisher went to the box for hooking less than 2 minutes into the game.
The former captain came out of the box, got the puck and fed a pass to Ryan Johansen, who was stopped by Lehtonen.
Kevin Fiala hit a post in the first period, and Ryan Ellis hit the post at the end of a power play in the second. Lehtonen, who replaced goalie Ben Bishop after he left Monday night’s overtime loss to Ottawa after the first period, turned away shot after shot. Lehtonen got a helping hand from Mattias Janmark to clear the puck away from the goal line late in the 2nd in the midst of a sustained possession by Nashville.
Hartman broke the scoreless tie with a backhander from the left circle over Lehtonen’s right shoulder off a feed from Austin Watson. For Hartman, it was his second goal and first at home since the Predators picked him up from Chicago at the trade deadline last week.
“We knew if we kept playing hard, the goals were going to come,” Hartman said. “That one felt good.”
Dallas coach Ken Hitchcock took his timeout with 47.6 seconds left and had Lehtonen out for the extra attacker. Klingberg was collecting the puck deep for one last rush when he tripped. Hitchcock said Lehtonen gave the Stars a chance against a deep Nashville team.
“They are a hard team to play against,” Hitchcock said.
NOTES: This was Nashville’s 10th shutout this season, its most since 2008-09 when Rinne also had seven shutouts. … Smith played his 500th career game. … The Predators are outscoring opponents 39-18 during the winning streak. … The Predators took the season series 3-0-1 against Dallas with points in 11 of the last 12 in the series. … With Bishop scratched with a lower-body injury, the Stars recalled G Mike McKenna from their AFL affiliate. They also recalled F Roope Hintz, who was scratched.
Stars: Host Anaheim on Friday night.
Predators: Host the Ducks on Thursday night.
Follow Teresa M. Walker at https://twitter.com/teresamwalker
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