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Predators take over eighth with comeback win

Friday, 03.27.2009 / 1:49 AM / Roundup

By John Kreiser - NHL.com Columnist

The little engine that could did it -- again.

The Nashville Predators may lack the star power of some of their rivals, but their sense of teamwork may be enough to carry them to their fifth consecutive playoff berth. The Preds got goals from three players in a 2:38 span of the second period Thursday night to rally for a 3-2 victory over the San Jose Sharks, moving them back into eighth place in the NHL's wild West.

The win gives Nashville 80 points -- tying the Predators with Anaheim, which has one more win, and putting them a point in front of the Edmonton Oilers, who lost at Phoenix and fell to ninth.

"Playing as a team is how we are going to win," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "It is not going to be one individual putting us on his back. It's going to be what you saw tonight with all of our guys pulling together with all they have."

They had to do just that after falling behind by two goals to the Sharks, who've already wrapped up the Pacific Division title and are battling Detroit for the top spot in the West and the Presidents' Trophy.

Joe Pavelski scored on the power play at 15:23 of the first period -- the first extra-man goal allowed by the Predators in their last 12 home games -- and Devin Setoguchi got another one 3:12 into the second to make it 2-0.

But the Sharks, who lost 6-5 in a shootout at Chicago on Wednesday, appeared to run out of gas -- and the Predators kept pushing the tempo.

"They were a tired team after a long game in Chicago," Nashville forward Steve Sullivan said. "So we took it to them early and often in the first period, and carried the momentum well into the second period. Even though they had the 2-0 lead, we thought we were the fresher team and if we kept on going after them good things would happen."

They did.

Nashville made it 2-1 at 7:34 when Radek Bonk converted Shea Weber's pass for a power-play goal. The Preds tied the game at 9:33 when Sullivan found Martin Erat near the left post and Erat pushed the puck past Evgeni Nabokov. Greg Zanon capped the outburst when he beat Nabokov with a slap shot from the high slot at 10:12.

"I told our players after the first period that if they kept on doing what they were doing, kept the pace and kept pushing that things would fall into place," Trotz said. "We had three quick goals there. If San Jose had scored the third one before we scored I think it would have been game, set and match."

The Predators left the ice after the final buzzer to an ovation from the crowd of 16,652.

"With the crowd, you could just feel the energy and it exploded the building, which they always do," Trotz said. "The guys stayed on it, we got a couple of quick goals, and went to the net really hard."

The Sharks stayed at 107 points, but fell behind Detroit, which has one more victory, largely due to their inability to score at even strength.

"We didn't score a goal 5-on-5, and that's obviously been one of the big problems the last few months," defenseman Dan Boyle said. "We need to show more poise and patience with the puck.

"There's not much time left to fine tune this thing. We obviously need to play better hockey, and it hasn't been good enough consistently."

Coyotes 3, Oilers 2 | Video

With a showdown at Anaheim on Friday, the Oilers couldn't be blamed for looking past the out-of-the-playoffs Coyotes, a team they'd beaten seven times in a row. If so, they paid the price.

Matthew Lombardi, Ken Klee and Martin Hanzal gave Phoenix a 3-0 lead after two periods, and goals 43 seconds apart by Ales Kotalik and Ales Hemsky midway through the third period weren't enough.

"There are no gimmes," Oilers captain Ethan Moreau said after his team's third consecutive loss dropped them out of the top eight in the West. Edmonton and St. Louis are tied with 79 points, one behind the Ducks and Nashville Predators.

"We're running out of defeats, and we didn't need to waste one tonight," Oilers coach Craig MacTavish said.

The Coyotes, 14th in the West with 69 points, grabbed the lead just 3:42 into the game when Lombardi's wrist shot to the far side beat Dwayne Roloson for his third goal in his last four games.

"He's been really good since we got him," coach Wayne Gretzky said of Lombardi, who came from Calgary at the trade deadline in the Olli Jokinen deal. "He brings a lot of energy. We're thrilled with the way he's playing."

Phoenix put the Oilers in a hole with two goals in a 3:08 span of the second period.

Klee, a defensive defenseman, scored his first of the season when he converted a centering pass from Nigel Dawes at 11:38. Hanzal made it 3-0 when he took a pass from Petr Prucha and scored his 11th of the season at 14:56.

"We've struggled a bit against these guys," Gretzky said of the team he led to four Stanley Cups as a player. "We got a solid effort. It was a nice win for our guys."

The Oilers finally beat Ilya Bryzgalov when Kotalik scored a power-play goal at 10:01. Hemsky got Edmonton within a goal at 10:44 with a shot that went between defenseman Kurt Sauer's legs and past Bryzgalov.

"We weren't horrible," Moreau said. "We just weren't able to score. That was the difference. We really felt we were going to come back and tie the game."

Blues 4, Canucks 2 | Video

The Blues continued their late playoff push before another sellout crowd at home, using third-period power-play goals by David Perron and Andy McDonald to beat the Canucks.

St. Louis moved into a tie with Edmonton -- both have 79 points, one behind Anaheim and Nashville, who hold the last two playoff berths in the West. The Blues are 8-2-1 in their last 11 games and 10-4-1 since Feb. 24. Their biggest stumbling block is the schedule -- they have a five-game road trip after Saturday's home game against Columbus.

"We've got to just focus on getting the next two points," coach Andy Murray said of the playoff race and his team's chances of making the top eight. "If we get enough at the end of the season, we'll be playing more hockey."

The Blues trailed 1-0 after one period on a goal by Taylor Pyatt, but T.J. Oshie and David Backes scored less than three minutes apart early in the second to put St. Louis ahead. Alex Burrows jammed in a rebound at 9:45 to make it 2-2.

Perron broke the tie 2:58 into the third when he converted a pass from Keith Tkachuk, and McDonald hit the empty net in the final minute. Chris Mason made 21 saves for his first career victory over the Canucks.

The Blues drew numerous ovations from the full house of 19,250 at Scottrade Center.

"I would have paid to watch this one," Murray said. "There was a lot of energy in the building, a lot of emotion. We found a way -- our goalie made some big saves and the building was electric."

The Canucks remained fifth in the West with 87 points, two behind fourth-place Chicago and three in back of Northwest Division-leading Calgary.

"We had a good start, then the momentum shifted quite a bit and they took over the game," coach Alain Vigneault said. "It was a very hostile, tough environment to play in, and when you’re playing against an opponent that’s that aggressive and that committed, you need your four lines and your six [defensemen] going. The line between a win and a loss is so small that you need everybody going -- and tonight we didn't have everybody going."

Kings 1, Stars 0 (SO) | Video

Justin Williams' shootout try slid into the Dallas net along with goaltender Marty Turco -- perhaps taking the Stars' playoff hopes with it. Williams scored in the third round of the shootout to keep the Kings' flickering postseason hopes alive and deal another blow to Dallas.
"Playing as a team is how we are going to win. It is not going to be one individual putting us on his back. It's going to be what you saw tonight with all of our guys pulling together with all they have."  -- Nashville coach Barry Trotz
Turco and L.A.'s Jonathan Quick combined for 59 saves -- 30 for Turco, 29 for Quick -- through 65 minutes. Anze Kopitar scored in the first round of the shootout for the Kings. Jere Lehtinen connected in the third round for the Stars, but Williams gave the Kings the extra point when his shot trickled into the net after Turco appeared to make the stop. At first, the referees ruled no-goal, but they went to video replay, which showed the puck over the goal line.

"I thought I saw it go into the back of the net," Williams said. "But I looked at our bench and nobody was celebrating."

The single point left the 12th-place Stars with 75, five out of a playoff spot in the West. The 13th-place Kings have 72. Both teams have eight games remaining -- five on the road.

"We can't lose a game," Williams said. "We know we have to win out to have a chance."

Dallas fell to 0-4-1 in its last five games and 2-7-1 in their last 10 at American Airlines Center. The Stars, who came within two wins of reaching last year's Stanley Cup Final, are in danger of missing the playoffs for the second time in the past 12 seasons.

"We left a point out there," Turco said. "We had a lot of chances that didn't go our way. Unfortunately, we're just running out of time. We're going to fight until they tell us to go home."

The injury-riddled Stars took another hit when Trevor Daley crashed headfirst into the boards early
in the first period and didn't return, laving Dallas short a defenseman.

"We hung around, but we had five (defensemen) back there and some fatigue set in," coach Dave Tippett said.

Material from wire services and team broadcast and online media was used in this report



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