Nashville improved its record against Eastern Conference opponents to 9-0-0 this season.
“I thought tonight we were pretty good defensively for most of the game,” Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. “I liked the fact that we didn’t turn the puck over. Their neutral zone can be tough to get through. We did a good job of just playing a smart, simple game.”
Zack Smith scored the first goal on the game’s first shot 26 seconds into the opening period. Carrying the puck into the Nashville zone on the right side, Smith sent a backhand from the left faceoff dot by Rinne on the far side.
“It’s a bad goal and you never want to start the game like that — it’s the first shot,” Rinne said. “It’s not the first time I’ve given up a soft goal. You just focus on making the next save, focus on the things you can control. Guys responded really well.”
Watson tied it 1-all at 15:38 of the first.
From the left boards, Mattias Ekholm sent a shot toward the Ottawa net. In the low slot, Watson tipped the puck high to the glove side of goaltender Craig Anderson for his sixth goal of the season.
Prior to Ekholm releasing the puck, Watson tapped his stick on the ice to get the attention of the Swedish defenseman.
“It was a great play by Ekky to get that back to the front of the net,” Watson said. “I’d kind of created a little space off the other side. Great look by him.”
Anderson finished with 33 saves.
Ottawa’s road record is 3-10-1.
“I don’t think we played poorly, but I don’t think we played our best,” Senators forward Mark Stone said. “The road is a different beast. Teams come into our building, we play pretty well. We know that teams are solid on home ice. That’s the nature of the NHL. You have to have a good home record, but also you have to find a way to win on the road.”
Ellis hooked up with defensive partner Roman Josi on a give-and-go at 9:01 of the second to give Nashville a 2-1 lead.
At the right point, Ellis sent a pass to Josi on the right boards. From there, Josi tapped the puck back to Ellis skating through the slot, where he snapped a one-timer over Anderson’s left shoulder.
Rinne made his best save in the final minute of the second period when he denied Brady Tkachuk’s attempt from just outside the Nashville crease.
“Tkachuk gets it, but it’s on his backhand and it’s fumbling and goes back the opposite way,” Ottawa coach Guy Boucher said. “It that one goes in, it’s 2-2, so again, it’s a different game.”
Craig Smith made it 3-1 at 1:59 of the third when he skated into the Ottawa zone along the right boards. Near the goal line, he cut toward the net and slipped a backhand past Anderson inside the near post.
NOTES: D Stefan Elliott played his first game with the Senators since being acquired from Pittsburgh in a Dec. 5 trade. … Nashville C Colton Sissons had an assist, extending his point streak to three games. … The Predators have defeated Ottawa five consecutive times in Nashville. … The Senators are 8-7-3 when scoring first this season. … One night ahead of their induction into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame, Red Berenson, Natalie Darwitz, Paul Stewart and Predators general manager David Poile attended the game.
Senators: At the Detroit Red Wings on Friday.
Predators: Host the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday.
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