Ward's unassisted goal helped Nashville hold off the Colorado Avalanche 4-2 on Saturday night at Bridgestone Arena. It sent the Avalanche to their eighth straight loss and 18th defeat in 19 games.
Shea Weber and Matt Halischuk also scored, and Martin Erat had an empty-net goal and an assist. Pekka Rinne stopped 36 shots for the Predators, who won for the second time in three nights at home. They are ninth in the Western Conference, a point behind four teams tied at 81 points.
Nashville will play 11 of its final 14 games at home.
"Bottom line is at the end of the year we got four points in these two games," Predators coach Barry Trotz said. "We're a point out of fifth, I think, but we're not in."
Rinne said the key is to relax and not think too much.
"Just try to enjoy this time of the year," Rinne said. "It's so much fun, and obviously it's fun to play now we have a chance to play at home in front of our fans. Obviously, I think that's going to boost our confidence."
Ryan O'Reilly and Daniel Winnik scored for Colorado, which was without top scorer Paul Stastny (back) and Milan Hejduk (shoulder). Both players were injured Friday in a 6-2 loss to Anaheim, but coach Joe Sacco was pleased with his team's effort in their second game in as many nights.
"There were a couple of individual mistakes that cost us that we are going to continue to correct and work on," Sacco said. "That has kind of been a little bit of the story lately here. Some mistakes that end up in the back of our net. We have to do a better job cutting down on those mistakes. In the 5-on-3, we have to be a little bit more assertive."
The Avalanche are 1-16-2 in their past 19, dropping them to 14th in the West.
"It's tough for both sides when you're losing a few games like that," Ward said. "They worked really hard, especially with the travel that they had to do to get in here. We knew it was going to be a battle. They fought really hard. They had some moments there where it could have been a different game, but we held on for two points."
Nashville won its fourth straight over the Avalanche, including three this season by a combined score of 14-6. The Predators jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first.
This time, they couldn't score with the man advantage on their first two chances but scored just after the power play ended. Weber scored his 15th on a wrister at 4:16 off an assist by Ward, just 4 seconds after Colorado's Brandon Yip served a bench minor for too many men on the ice. Halischuk scored 13 seconds after Kevin Porter's slashing penalty expired.
Halischuk scored his second off a play created by Blake Geoffrion, who stole the puck in front of Avalanche goalie Peter Budaj. He passed to Kevin Klein, who sent the puck over to Halischuk for a wrister at 11:36.
O'Reilly trimmed the lead with his eighth this season at 4:15 of the second. The Avalanche kept whacking away at the puck with Rinne stopping a couple shots before O'Reilly wristed it past Klein, who helped defend the net with Rinne out of position.
Colorado had 43 seconds of a 5-on-3 advantage after Ward was penalized for tripping with Jonathon Blum already in the box for cross-checking. The Avalanche thought they scored at 11:53 when O'Reilly redirected the puck from the slot, but Rinne immediately raised his hands in protest. The officials talked briefly and waved off the goal because O'Reilly's stick was too high.
"I think I knew right after I hit it that it was a high stick," said O'Reilly, who was also stopped by Rinne on a breakaway in the third. "It happened and I probably just should have just left it and tried to settle it. Might as well try for it, right?"
Ward put the Predators up 3-1 at 13:31. He faked a shot from the right circle, held the puck, and skated to the net before backhanding a shot into an open net.
Colorado got a lucky bounce on Winnik's goal. His slap shot bounced off the left skate of Nashville center Colin Wilson past Rinne at 19:30 of the period.
Material from wire services and team media was used in this report
|Shea Weber (15) ASST: Joel Ward (17), Martin Erat (29)|
1 - 0 NSH
|Matt Halischuk (2) ASST: Kevin Klein (12), Blake Geoffrion (1)|
2 - 0 NSH
|Ryan O'Reilly (8) ASST: David Van Der Gulik (2), David Jones (15)|
2 - 1 NSH
|Joel Ward (10) ASST: NONE|
3 - 1 NSH
|Daniel Winnik (9) ASST: Matt Duchene (30), Ryan O'Byrne (8)|
3 - 2 NSH
|EN - Martin Erat (13) ASST: NONE|
4 - 2 NSH
|Brandon Yip Too many men/ice - bench|
|Mike Fisher Delaying Game-Puck over glass|
|Kevin Porter Slashing against Colin Wilson|
|Ryan Suter Interference against Ryan O'Reilly|
|Ryan O'Reilly Holding against Nick Spaling|
|Jonathon Blum Cross checking against Mark Olver|
|Joel Ward Tripping against Ryan Wilson|
|Jordin Tootoo Fighting (maj) against Ryan Wilson|
|Ryan Wilson Fighting (maj) against Jordin Tootoo|
|Ryan O'Reilly Tripping against Martin Erat|
|Shane O'Brien Roughing against Daniel Winnik|
|Daniel Winnik Unsportsmanlike conduct against Shane O'Brien|
|Erik Johnson Interference against Sergei Kostitsyn|