By JIM DIAMOND Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Nick Bonino scored the goals and his Predators teammates made it an easy night for Pekka Rinne.
Bonino had a natural hat trick, Rinne made 20 saves for his second consecutive shutout and the Nashville Predators beat the Chicago Blackhawks 3-0 on Tuesday night.
Rocco Grimaldi had the primary assist on all three goals for the first three-point game of his career. Craig Smith added two assists for the Predators, winners of four straight.
The Grimaldi-Bonino-Smith line recorded 16 shots on goal in the game. Bonino’s nine shots on goal established a new career high.
“The very first shift that they got on the ice, they were relentless in the offensive zone,” Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. “They dogged pucks all night long and broke up plays, and then when the puck was up for grabs, they won the battles and then they moved it efficiently in the offensive zone and brought pucks to the net.”
The struggling Blackhawks have lost five of six.
Bonino’s hat trick was the third of his NHL career and first with the Predators.
After scoring once in each of the first two periods, Bonino buried the rebound of a shot from Grimaldi from just outside Robin Lehner’s crease, prompting fans to shower the ice with hats at 3:40 of the third.
“I knew Smitty and Rocco cycling, they were winning all of their battles, getting pucks to the net,” Bonino said. “I was just trying to go to the net and get some rebounds.”
Lehner finished with 48 saves.
“My D men really worked with me today,” Lehner said. “They tried their best to help me out to the last second of the game, so that’s positive and I commend them for that. They blocked some shots late, but man they were toying with us today.”
Since allowing a third-period goal last Tuesday against Anaheim, Rinne has posted back-to-back shutouts. The winningest Finnish-born goaltender in NHL history has 57 career shutouts and is 7-0-1 on the season.
“We played extremely well throughout the game,” Rinne said. “We didn’t have any lapses. For me personally, it was one of the, for sure, easier shutouts.”
Bonino scored the first goal at 17:56 of the opening period.
In the high slot, Smith sent a pass to Grimaldi above the left faceoff circle. Grimaldi sent a shot on goal that hit traffic in front. Bonino’s initial attempt was stopped by Lehner, but Bonino was able to swat home the rebound with a backhand while he was falling to the ice.
The Blackhawks were lucky to escape the first down just 1-0 thanks to a strong performance by Lehner. The Predators outshot Chicago 19-6 in the opening period.
“We weren’t very good,” Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton said. “It’s a pretty good team and I think they showed why they’re good. They were desperate and first on, it seemed, like every loose puck.”
Bonino made it 2-0 at 9:03 of the second.
Dante Fabbro’s shot from the right point was blocked in front by Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith. In the slot, Grimaldi’s shot was also blocked by Keith, but the rebound came to Bonino on the left side, where he beat Lehner for the second time.
The shot totals in the second were as lopsided as they were in the first, with Nashville carrying a 21-8 advantage.
NOTES: Nashville LW Filip Forsberg missed his sixth consecutive game with a lower-body injury. … Blackhawks D Brent Seabrook was a healthy scratch for the second straight game. … Nashville is 6-2-1 in its last nine games against the Blackhawks.
Blackhawks: Visit the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday.
Predators: Host the Calgary Flames on Thursday.