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Rinne leads Preds to 3-0 win over Coyotes

Phoenix Coyotes' Lauri Korpikoski, right, battles with Nashville Predators' Francis Bouillon for the puck during the second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Nov. 3, 2011, in Glendale, Ariz. Phoenix Coyotes' Lauri Korpikoski, right, battles with Nashville Predators' Francis Bouillon for the puck during the second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Nov. 3, 2011, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)
By John Marshall
AP Sports Writer / November 4, 2011

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GLENDALE, Ariz.—Pekka Rinne stopped 35 shots after signing the richest contract in team history, and Patric Hornqvist scored in his fourth straight game to lift the Nashville Predators to a 3-0 win over the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday night.

Rinne received a big gift on his 29th birthday, signing a seven-year, $49 million contract earlier Thursday. He celebrated by turning away everything the Coyotes threw at him for his third shutout of the season and 23rd in the NHL.

Jonathon Blum and Matt Halischuk had goals in the second period, and Hornqvist added his fifth goal in four games, scoring into an empty net.

The Coyotes started off strong after beating Colorado 4-1 on Wednesday, but couldn't solve Rinne. Phoenix's five-game point streak was snapped (4-0-1).

Nashville took a proactive approach for the future and signed Rinne to what was easily the largest contract in the history of a franchise that came into the league for the 1998-99 season.

For an ownership group that's been criticized for not spending big money to keep or bring in players, it was a big step.

Rinne made it look like a good deal in his 12th straight start to open the season, which extended his team record.

The NHL leader in saves -- 307 entering the game -- turned away several good chances in the first period, just getting his skate out to stop Mikkel Boedker on a wraparound attempt, then stuffing him on a breakaway with the Predators on a power play.

Rinne got a break in the second period when Boedker hit the post on a rebound, and nearly did the splits to stop a shot by Radim Vrbata on a power play early in the third.

Phoenix had gotten good goaltending during its points run, thanks to Mike Smith. He stopped 76 of 79 shots during the span and had 39 saves Wednesday.

With Smith getting the night off, the Coyotes turned to Jason LaBarbera, who hadn't started since Oct. 18 against Chicago, a span of six games.

"Barbs" didn't look the least bit rusty early, sprawling on his belly twice in the first 3 minutes and making a close-range save on Craig Smith during a power play midway through the period.

It didn't last.

Blum broke through midway through the second period, sending a wrister from the blue line that made its way through traffic for his first goal of the season.

Halischuk made it 2-0 late in the period, one-timing a pass from Smith on a 2-on-1 break for his fourth goal.

Rinne got some help from defenseman Kevin Klein after leaving the crease midway through the third, and Hornqvist put the game out of reach with just under a minute left.

NOTES: The Coyotes played the first of their 13 back-to-back sets this season. ... Nashville C Mike Fisher returned after missing one game because of a head injury. LW Sergei Kostitsyn was back after sitting out two games due to an undisclosed lower body injury. ... Phoenix C Martin Hanzal didn't play because of a lower body injury sustained late against Colorado.

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