Forsberg has goal, assist; Rinne earns shutout in Predators' 3-0 win over Avalanche

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DENVER — Filip Forsberg showed again why he is an early contender to be the NHL's rookie of the year.

His Nashville Predators teammate Pekka Rinne is making a case to be the league's best goalie, too.

Forsberg scored on 2:23 in and added a late assist, and Rinne earned his third shutout of the season as the Nashville Predators beat the Colorado Avalanche 3-0 on Tuesday night.

Gabriel Bourque and James Neal scored empty-net goals in the closing minutes for the Predators, who avoided their first two-game losing streak of the season.

Forsberg scored his 12th goal before the crowd had completely filed into the arena. Bourque sent a pass through the sticks of two Avalanche players, and the 20-year-old Swede broke into the open ice and flipped the puck over goalie Calvin Pickard's left shoulder.

"I was trying to get it as high as possible," said Forsberg, who had success against Pickard in the minors last season. "I was coming pretty close and got cut off by the back-checker. So I was trying to go high, and I was fortunate on that one."

Rinne did the rest for the Predators. He stopped 26 shots and halted the Avs' resurgent attack in the second period. He has won eight of his past 10 starts, limiting opponents to two goals or fewer in those games.

"He was great," Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. "In the second period we were a little loose with what we were doing, but he made some big saves for us.

"He was just consistent through the night, and I thought our guys did a pretty good job defensively in front of him."

Pickard was nearly as good. He made 33 saves in place of Semyon Varlamov, who missed his 10th game of the season after aggravating a groin injury during practice on Monday.

Despite his efforts, the Avalanche fell to 0-3-1 in December after winning five of their last seven games in November.

"(Pickard) played unbelievable. He's been playing so good since he has been up for us," Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon said. "It's very unfortunate what happened to Varly, you know, re-injuring his groin, but with Pick playing like that, he gave us a chance to win."

Forsberg, who leads NHL rookies with 12 goals and 15 assists, came up empty on his second breakaway chance in the first period after he was hooked by Alex Tanguay. Olli Jokinen was robbed by Pickard's glove in the closing minutes.

The Predators went 0 for 6 on the power play.

It didn't matter, though, because Rinne — with some help — was perfect at the other end.

Colorado captain Gabriel Landeskog missed an open net, and was the second Avs player to hit the post in the second period. The Avalanche were shut out for the fourth time this season.

"You know (Rinne) isn't going to allow a whole bunch of goals. They have a good team over there," Pickard said. "They've had a lot of success early on. We were a post away from tying that game."

Bourque scored an empty-net goal with 1:50 remaining — nine seconds after Pickard went to the bench. Neal added another with 58 seconds to go.

NOTES: Predators center Paul Gaustad, who missed Saturday's game with a lower-body injury, left with the same injury and didn't return. ... Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said Varlamov would miss a "couple weeks." ... The injury-ravaged Avalanche recalled Paul Carey and Borna Rendulic from Lake Erie of the AHL. Rendulic became the first Croatian-born player to play in the NHL. He nearly scored, too, but his drive hit the post early in the second period.

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