NASHVILLE – Brandon Yip turned the taste in his mouth from salty to sweet on Thursday.
The right wing, placed on waivers by Colorado earlier this season and claimed by Nashville on Jan. 19, was one of four Predators’ goal-scorers as his new team defeated his old one 4-2 at Bridgestone Arena.
“Any time a team lets you go or trades you or anything, there’s a little salt in your mouth,” Yip said. “It was a big win for the team and for me, as well.”
After Tuesday’s 5-4 loss to Los Angeles – Nashville’s first at home in regulation in more than two months -- Predators coach Barry Trotz said some of his players were not committed enough and shuffled the lineup, scratching forwards Craig Smith and Colin Wilson. Thursday’s replacements, forwards Matt Halischuk and Yip, both made an impact. Halischuk earned an assist by creating a turnover on Nashville’s third goal.
Nashville, which has won two of its last four, improved to 12-2-2 at home since Jan. 1 and remains in fifth place in the Western Conference but is slowly gaining on Central Division rival Detroit, which visits on Saturday.
“They did a really good job,” Trotz said of Halischuk and Yip. “I thought Hally had lots of energy. Obviously, great stick on the third goal. Hally and Yipper are both really good pros. We’ve got guys that we’re trying to look at what might fit (for the playoffs)…. There’s been some decisions that are hard to make. Tonight I felt that would be the way to go tonight. We’ll sort of re-set for Detroit.”
Avs coach Joe Sacco said the goal that Halischuk contributed to was “one of the turning points of the game.” The Avs were hanging tough, down by a goal and getting some good goaltending from Semyon Varlamov (27 saves). On the forecheck, Halischuk, deflected the outlet pass of the Avs’ Gabriel Landeskog and the puck went straight to Sergei Kostitsyn in the slot. Kostitsyn, second in the League in shooting percentage, buried a wrist shot with 32 seconds left in the second period for a 3-1 lead at intermission. It was his 17th goal of the season.
“They’re still controlling more territory, but we make a bad decision with the puck… it ends up in the back of our net,” Sacco said. “That’s a tough one to give up. Those things hurt you during the course of game, but you have to move on. It wasn’t a good enough game for us tonight.”
Colorado closed to 3-2 at 4:58 of the third when Paul Stastny took Peter Mueller’s pass from behind the net that bounded through the slot and banged it in almost from midair from 19 feet away for his 17th. But Martin Erat hit the empty net with 43.5 seconds left to ice the win.
Paul Gaustad, still trying to figure out his way in the Nashville lineup after coming over from Buffalo in a deadline day deal, won some big faceoffs and assisted on Erat’s goal. He was on the ice for two of Nashville’s goals but also for both of Colorado’s and finished even.
“I’m still trying to get a feel for everything,” said Gaustad, who has had new wings almost every game and centered Yip and Gabriel Bourque on Thursday. “I know it’s going to take patience. Every game I’m feeling a little more comfortable in the system and again I had some bad reads tonight that I’m going to correct and try to keep getting better down the stretch here.
“I don’t take lightly to when I’m on the ice when goals get scored against me. So, two of them tonight. I don’t take those too lightly and I’m not too happy about it and I’m going to figure out a way I can be better and see if I can help out on those.”
Yip scored Nashville’s second goal. Gaustad, who won 58 percent of his faceoffs, a key reason Nashville acquired him, won the offensive-zone faceoff back to defenseman Roman Josi, who ripped a slap shot from the right point that deflected off Yip at 6:58 of the first period for his second goal since arriving in Nashville.
The goal originally was given to Yip, then changed to Josi before it was given back to Yip.
“We didn’t know who they were going to give it to,” said Yip, who had 12 goals and 10 assists in 71 games for Colorado last season but no points this season in 10 games before he was waived. “But it didn’t matter. It was a big goal for us and it got us going.”
Colorado, which was badly outchanced, according to Trotz, and had only 17 shots, had its two-game winning streak snapped. The Avs, who entered the night tied with 74 points for the Western Conference’s final playoff spot, had won six of their last eight. They're one point behind San Jose, a shootout loser at Dallas.
“The effort was inconsistent for me,” Sacco said. “I thought in a game like this that had such meaning I thought we didn’t have enough guys that really dug in for the whole sixty minutes tonight. That’s not acceptable.”
During a scary moment at the end of the first period, Colorado’s top defenseman, Erik Johnson, crashed awkwardly into the boards and needed help getting off the ice, seemingly favoring a leg. Johnson missed about the first 13 minutes of the second period before returning. Asked how Johnson’s absence affected his team, Sacco only replied, “no, no.” Johnson played only 14:42 but was plus-1.
Colorado took a 1-0 lead when Josi got a little overaggressive in trying to defend David Jones on a 1-on-1. Jones stickhandled around Josi, then found an open Jamie McGinn in front of the net, and McGinn redirected the puck into the net 1:14 into the game. The goal was McGinn’s fourth in five games since joining the Avs in a trade from San Jose.
Nashville evened the score 100 seconds later with a goal off the rush. Mike Fisher took a trailing pass from Shea Weber and his wrist shot from the right point beat Varlamov through traffic for his 20th of the season. Fisher finished a game-best plus-3.