CALGARY, Alberta (AP) — Known more for his toughness, Zac Rinaldo showed he can score, too.
Rinaldo scored the tiebreaking goal in the third period to lead the Nashville Predators to a 5-3 win over the Calgary Flames on Friday night.
After Noah Hanifin got caught pinching, Rinaldo broke out on a 2-on-1 with Ryan Hartman and hung onto the puck the whole way before beating Flames goalie Mike Smith on his blocker side with a perfect wrist shot into the top corner at 6:31 of the third to give Nashville a 4-3 lead.
In career game No. 335 for the 28-year-old, it was only Rinaldo’s 15th goal.
“That’s what I live for. That’s what I play for. I play for pride. I play for the team,” Rinaldo said.
It was the fourth time Nashville took the lead in a back-and-forth game. This time, they held it.
“The bench was pumped up,” Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. “Just a great, great play. We ended up catching numbers going the other way. He made the right decision, made a great shot.”
Juuse Saros, who stopped all nine shots he faced in relief of Pekka Rinne, said he’s seen that release from Rinaldo before.
“I know he has a good shot,” said Saros, who is 3-0-0. “We’ve seen that many times in practice.”
Kevin Fiala and Filip Forsberg each had a goal and an assist, and Ryan Johansen and Craig Smith also scored to help Nashville win its fourth straight.
Forsberg sealed the win with an empty-netter with 32 seconds left.
“We’re feeling good,” Johansen said. “We understand it’s a long season and there’s a big process, but we’re just going to keep the pedal down and keep continuing to get better.”
Rinne had 15 saves on 18 shots before leaving with just under 15 minutes left in the third.
Elias Lindholm got his team-leading fifth goal for Calgary, and Matthew Tkachuk and Sam Bennett also scored. Smith finished with 25 saves.
Nashville took the lead four times with Calgary answering back to tie it three times.
Calgary had a great opportunity to tie up it once again at 4-4 when James Neal set up Bennett at the side of the net with a hard pass, but the puck went wide of the open cage.
“I’m going to have some nightmares about that one I missed, but that’s the way it goes,” Bennett said.
Down 3-2 entering the third, the Flames pulled even at 2:20 when Derek Ryan wired a perfect feed to Sam Bennett, who was breaking in off the wing and went to his backhand to neatly beat Rinne.
While Rinne was stretching to try and stop the puck, Fiala landed on top of the goalie in an awkward-looking collision. Rinne stayed in the game briefly, but came to the bench at 5:09 and after talking with the training staff went to the dressing room.
After the game, still wasn’t clear why Rinne departed.
“I can’t comment on anything because I don’t know anything yet. But we didn’t pull him. Something was wrong,” Laviolette said.
Saros was excellent in relief, getting tested just seconds after he arrived in the crease. Off the ensuing faceoff, he had to jab out his right pad to rob Lindholm to keep the score tied.
Trailing 2-1, Calgary tied the score on the power play with 7:09 left in the second as Lindholm’s shot caromed in off Tkachuk’s skate.
Fiala put Nashville back ahead with 5:37 to go in the middle period as the Predators converted their first power-play opportunity of the night, courtesy of a double-minor for high-sticking on former teammate James Neal.
Nashville struck first, scoring 51 seconds into the game. TJ Brodie lost his stick along the sideboards and in going to retrieve it, allowed a 2-on-1 in front that was converted by Johansen.
Calgary went over 16 1/2 minutes between shots in the first, with Lindholm snapping the streak, burying Johnny Gaudreau’s set-up past Rinne with 1:17 left.
Smith put the Predators ahead 2-1 at 4:09 of the second.
NOTES: The Flames lost at home for the first time after winning their first two games. …Calgary’s Dillon Dube (lower body) returned after missing one game. That made Austin Czarnik a healthy scratch for the first time this season. … Flames F Sean Monahan played in his 400th NHL game.
Predators: At Edmonton on Saturday night.
Flames: At the New York Rangers on Sunday night.