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Preds climb to seventh after beating Kings in OT

Sunday, 03.29.2009 / 2:10 AM / Roundup

By John Kreiser - NHL.com Columnist

The Nashville Predators hope their perseverance pays off in a fifth consecutive playoff berth.

Nashville made up a pair of one-goal deficits and allowed the game-tying goal with 64 seconds remaining in regulation, but went home with a big two points when Steve Sullivan's power-play goal 3:41 into overtime gave the Preds a 4-3 win over the Los Angeles Kings at the Sommet Center on Saturday.

Sullivan scored with a one-timer from the left faceoff dot off a pass from Ryan Suter with Nashville skating 4-on-3.

"It was just a matter of trying to get open, and [Suter] made a great pass," Sullivan said. "We're in a dogfight for the playoffs, we needed two points, and we knew it."

They almost didn't get them. Nashville trailed 2-1 after two periods and didn't pull even until Joel Ward scored a shorthanded goal 7:05 into the third. Shea Weber's goal at 12:23 gave the Predators their first lead of the day, but Jack Johnson sent the game into overtime by scoring with 1:04 left in regulation.

Nashville moved up to seventh place in the Western Conference, one point ahead of the idle Edmonton Oilers, who host Minnesota on Sunday, and St. Louis, which beat Columbus. Of the Predators' seven remaining games, five are on the road and all but one of their opponents appears headed for the postseason.

The Predators are 4-0-3 in their last seven games. The last six have been decided by one goal.

"It's taxing our nerves, it's taxing our resiliency, and it's taxing our character a little bit lately," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "It has been a rough week. We have played three games in five nights, and they have all been emotionally draining in one way or another."

Brian Boyle staked the Kings to a 1-0 lead 7:00 into the game when he stripped Weber of the puck behind the net and beat goalie Pekka Rinne on the short side with a wrist shot along the ice. Rookie Cal O'Reilly one-timed Sullivan's pass behind Jonathan Quick at 14:24 to tie it, but Los Angeles went back in front at 8:56 of the second period on defenseman Matt Greene's first goal in 44 games.

Ward's goal came at the end of a 2-on-1 off a pass from Martin Erat, who had a career-high four assists.

"If you have the chance to create something, you have to take the chance -- especially when you are down by one and your playoff lives are at stake," Ward said.

The Kings are 13th in the West with 73 points -- eight out of eighth place. Their playoff hopes are virtually gone, but coach Terry Murray has his team playing hard to the end.

"I really like what we have been doing in third periods lately," Murray said. "We've been battling, finding ways to win games, to tie up games to get them to an overtime situation, and tonight was another example of that."

Blues 4, Blue Jackets 3 (SO) | Video

Repetition is key.

After watching Brad Boyes shoot high on Steve Mason in the shootout, David Perron did the exact

same thing two rounds later and lifted St. Louis to a dramatic victory against Columbus at a raucous Scottrade Center. The Blues are 5-1-1 in their last seven games and moved into a tie for eighth place with the Edmonton Oilers in the Western Conference.

''I saw Brad Boyes beat him pretty easily,'' Perron said. ''I tried to do the same. It worked, but he got a piece of it.''

Chris Mason then denied Antoine Vermette to seal yet another huge victory for St. Louis, which now begins a make-or-break, five-game road trip on Sunday at Columbus. The Blues have won four in a row for the first time this season.

''If we lost the game in a shootout, I would have had the same message for (the players) as I had after this game with a win,'' Blues coach Andy Murray said. ''The message was, 'If we had lost in the shootout, we're not competing against Nashville, we're not competing against Anaheim, we're not competing against Minnesota -- these other teams in the standings.' We're battling for our own points. If we got one point tonight, that's one point.''

Chris Mason was pleased to see the way his team battled after blowing a 3-1 lead in the third period. Kristian Huselius and Rick Nash scored just 93 seconds apart to tie the game for the Blue Jackets, who are 7-1-1 in their last nine games and are on the verge of their first-ever playoff appearance.

''I guess you could say that they came back, but we knew it was going to be a tough third period,'' he said. ''I guess you could say it's a relief, but it's the same story with our team. We just keep plugging and find ways to win.''

St. Louis held a 2-1 lead after the opening period on goals from Keith Tkachuk and Patrik Berglund. Vermette scored shorthanded for Columbus, his 15th tally of the season. Alexander Steen gave the Blues a 3-1 lead 5:48 into the second.

''We didn't play very good for two periods to start off the game,'' said Nash, who now has 35 goals. ''To come out with a point in a game like that shows a lot of character from our guys.''

After the slow start, Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock credited his top offensive weapons -- Huselius and Nash -- for giving the club a jolt in the third period. After Sunday, the teams will meet one more time -- on April 10 in St. Louis, after the Blues' road trip.

''The big change for us in the third period was our top players really showed up and played,'' Hitchcock said. ''Both guys scored big goals for us and that's what you need and that's what we got.''

Sharks 3, Coyotes 2 | Video

San Jose is back on top in the West and the overall standings. Joe Pavelski's power-play goal early in the third period broke a tie and the Sharks held off the pesky Coyotes for their NHL-best 31st home win.

The victory gives the Sharks a franchise-record 109 points, two more than Detroit. Both teams have seven games remaining. The Red Wings were shut out 2-0 at home by the 30th-place New York Islanders on Friday, and Sharks forward Jody Shelley said he and his teammates didn't want to have the same thing happen to them -- especially against a team that beat them in Phoenix last week.

"It wasn't hard to get motivated," said Shelley, whose unassisted goal at 3:16 of the second period tied the game at 1-1 just 58 seconds after Kurt Sauer scored for Phoenix. "These guys beat us in our building last week, and we were watching last night when the Islanders beat Detroit. We were ready."

But Sharks coach Todd McLellan wants to make sure his team stays focused on the big picture.

"I really don't think right now this group is focused on staying in front of Detroit," McLellan said. "We can't play these last seven games with Detroit in the back of our mind. We are a better team when we are focused on what we're doing."

The Sharks won despite losing team captain Patrick Marleau to a lower body injury three shifts into the second period. It was yet another blow to the injury-riddled Sharks, who are limping down the stretch and head back out on the road after a one-game pit stop.

Just 2:04 after Shelley's second goal of the season, rookie Tom Cavanagh took a quick pass from Devin Setoguchi and flipped the puck over Ilya Bryzgalov's right shoulder for a 2-1 San Jose lead.

"Everyone is going to have to contribute," Cavanagh said. "We have a lot of injuries so we need all four lines to go out there and create some energy. That's what this team needs."

Matthew Lombardi tied it 2-2 just 70 seconds later, but took a tripping penalty that led to Pavelski's game-winner, a blast from inside the left circle 1:34 into the final period.

The Coyotes are 14th in the West, but continue to play hard for coach Wayne Gretzky. They are 3-2-1 in their last six games.

"We seem to be playing with a lot more intensity, and our speed is much stronger right now," Gretzky said. "Right now, we come into a game like this and they're battling for home-ice advantage and they're a very good hockey club. For us to have the kind of night we had was a pretty strong effort."

Flames 3, Wild 2 | Video

Calgary continued its domination of Minnesota, as Eric Nystrom's goal late in the second period broke a 2-2 tie and gave the Flames their fifth consecutive win over the Wild.

Nystrom one-timed a pass from Jarome Iginla behind Niklas Backstrom at 16:39 of the second period to break a 2-2 tie. The goal came after a pair of apparent power-play goals by Olli Jokinen and Curtis Glencross were waived off by referee Eric Furlatt.

"The first one looked like it was pretty legit, but at the same time the referee doesn't get to look at the scoreboard and see the instant replay so he is just going with what he sees on the ice," Nystrom said. "Things happen so fast out there that they just make the call and they can't reverse their own call. That's what's tough about being a referee."

Calgary's ninth victory in its last 10 games with Minnesota gave the Northwest Division leaders 92 points, three more than onrushing Vancouver, which has a game in hand. The loss kept the Wild stuck on 78 points, three behind Edmonton and St. Louis, who are tied for the last playoff berth. Minnesota caps a stretch of 14 of 17 games on the road with a visit to Edmonton on Sunday.
"It's taxing our nerves, it's taxing our resiliency, and it's taxing our character a little bit lately. It has been a rough week. We have played three games in five nights, and they have all been emotionally draining in one way or another." -- Nashville coach Barry Trotz
"We're supposed to be fighting for our lives here to get into the playoffs and it's just not a good effort tonight," Wild forward Owen Nolan said after his team managed only 15 shots at Miikka Kiprusoff.

The Flames carried the play early, but the Wild scored first when Andrew Brunette swatted a rebound past Kiprusoff 11:56 into the game. Calgary tied it at 13:23 when Jamie Lundmark's snap shot from the right circle beat Niklas Backstrom high to the glove side. The goal snapped a scoreless span of 133:51 for the Flames, who were shut out at Pittsburgh on Wednesday and Columbus on Thursday.

The Flames took a 2-1 lead with 4:23 left in the first when Daymond Langkow converted a feed from Todd Bertuzzi. James Sheppard tied the game 11:13 into the second by scoring his first goal in 26 games.

Panthers 6, Stars 3 | Video

Dallas' playoff hopes are almost gone. One year after coming within two wins of a trip to the Stanley Cup Final, the Stars are six points out of the last playoff spot in the West after being whipped by the Panthers for their sixth consecutive loss.

The Stars led 1-0 and 2-1 before goals by Stephen Weiss and Nathan Horton in the final minute of the second period and Kamil Kreps 58 seconds into the third turned the game around -- leaving Dallas 12th in the West with 75 points, six out of a playoff spot with seven games to play. The Stars are 0-5-1 in their last six games.

"There's no time to wait around and see what other teams are going to do," said defenseman Matt Niskanen, whose goal midway through the second period gave Dallas a 2-1 lead. "All we can control is how we play and start winning games."

Florida's second road win in three nights gives the Panthers 86 points, one behind eighth-place Montreal and two behind the seventh-place New York Rangers. Florida has its next three games and four of the last six at home.

"We wanted to get two of three on this trip, and we got them," Panthers coach Peter DeBoer said. "We've got three home games and we've got to take care of business. Hopefully at the end of the day we'll look up and be in."

Weiss took a pass on the right side and beat Turco to tie it at 2 with 59.5 seconds remaining in the second. Horton flipped a shot over the sprawling Turco during a scramble to give the Panthers the lead with 6.2 seconds left. Kreps made it 4-2 with a backhander past Turco.

Chris Conner's goal with 7:33 left gave the Stars some hope, but Jay Bouwmeester restored Florida's two-goal lead with 4:54 to play and Radek Dvorak hit the empty net to wrap up the win.
"We'd gone through a bit of a down stretch, so this was big," Bouwmeester said. "With six games left, we have to basically win all of them to control our own destiny."

Craig Anderson, who won Thursday night in Philadelphia, stopped 32 shots -- including 14 in the first period when the Stars dominated play but led only 1-0 on a goal by Mike Ribeiro.

"I knew I was putting him in a tough situation," DeBoer said. "He's shown his character. I think the guys see that and have responded for him."

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




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