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Arnott shines in return to lineup

by Brian Compton
Jason Arnott couldn't take it anymore.

After a concussion forced him to miss the Nashville Predators' 3-1 loss at Chicago on Friday, the captain decided he couldn't be absent for a must-win game against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday.

Arnott returned in dramatic fashion, as he scored twice and added an assist in a 5-4 shootout victory at the Sommet Center. Nashville is tied with St. Louis with 86 points in the Western Conference playoff chase. The Blue Jackets are sixth, one point ahead of Anaheim for seventh and three up on Nashville and St. Louis.

"I was pretty determined to play," said Arnott, who leads the Preds with 29 goals. "I talked it over with my wife and she kind of hinted against it. But I wanted to get back and help the team as much as I can."

While some in a similar situation may have shied away from contact, Arnott consistently got to the front of the net. He skated on a line with J.P. Dumont and Steve Sullivan.

"It's a part of my game," Arnott said. "I figured if I am going to play I am going to do the things that I do well. At the beginning of the game I kind of took it easy. As things progressed I began going to the net more."

Nashville coach Barry Trotz was certainly pleased to have his captain back. The Predators were already without center David Legwand and winger Martin Erat.

"The guys are digging in and there have been no complaints," Trotz said. "It was huge to have Arnott back. He gave us a big body in the middle. You saw how many chances they created."

Columbus captain Rick Nash scored a pair of goals and broke a scoreless tie 6:04 into the game. The skilled forward got to the front of the net and stuffed Manny Malhotra's rebound past Preds goalie Pekka Rinne for his 37th goal of the season.

Shea Weber briefly tied the game at 9:06, but Jiri Novotny put the Blue Jackets back in front just 31 seconds later as Columbus held a 2-1 lead after 20 minutes.

Nash gave the Blue Jackets a two-goal cushion when he tallied his second goal of the night at 5:46 of the second period. With Columbus on a power play, Rinne made an initial save on Jason Williams, but Nash was there to put home the rebound to make it 3-1.

But Arnott brought the crowd to its feet with a pair of tallies just 5:02 apart. His first came at 11:14 of the second as he caught the puck off a high rebound, threw it to the ice and backhanded it off of a Columbus player into the net past rookie goalie Steve Mason.

Arnott scored again -- this time on a power play -- at 16:16. After Radek Bonk's redirection landed in the slot, Arnott collected the loose puck and ripped it past Mason for his 29th tally. Not bad for someone who was concerned prior to the opening faceoff.

"I was very uncomfortable," Arnott said. "To come back after a concussion is tough. You definitely don't want to put yourself in a situation where you are going to be out for the rest of the year, most of the summer and maybe even next year.

"But we have lost so many guys. I made the decision to come back and try to give us a boost."

Bonk gave Nashville the lead midway through the third period when he redirected Jerred Smithson's feed past Mason, but Williams tied things up and forced overtime when he beat Rinne with 4:17 left in regulation.

Neither team scored in the first two rounds of the shootout, and Rinne kept the Blue Jackets off the scoreboard when he denied Novotny in Round 3. But Ville Koistinen sent the crowd home happy when he beat Mason in the bottom half of the round to give the Preds an enormous second point in the standings.

"I always tell Coach Trotz that I want to start out defending in the shootout," Rinne said. "I try and trust myself to get a save so our guy can go to the other end and score."

With the conclusion of the regular season just a week away, Columbus is on the verge of its first-ever playoff appearance. While the Blue Jackets picked up a point, coach Ken Hitchcock was less than pleased with his team's performance.

"The point's big, but we did not play well in the second and third periods so we will have to address that," Hitchcock said. "We can play better."

Stars 5, Blues 4 (OT) | Video

Dallas may have won, but in the end, there wasn't much reason to smile.

Despite the fact that Trevor Daley's goal 16 seconds in overtime lifted the Stars past St. Louis at the American Airlines Center, Dallas was officially eliminated from postseason contention. The Stars have struggled down the stretch, going 2-6-2 in their last 10 games.

It marks the first time Dallas won't compete for the Stanley Cup since the 2001-02 season. It's also just the second time in 12 years that the Stars aren't in the playoffs.

"You make the playoffs by playing well all year," Stars coach Dave Tippett said. "We were too inconsistent over the course of the season to give ourselves a chance."

With the point for reaching overtime, St. Louis pushed its season total to 86, leaving the Blues even with Nashville for eighth place in the race for the final Western Conference playoff spot. However, the Predators hold the tiebreaker with one more victory.

"It's almost a Game 7 situation every game we play right now," St. Louis forward Keith Tkachuk said.

Three of the Blues' four goals came in the second period, including a pair from Brad Boyes, who enjoyed a four-point night. Loui Eriksson scored twice for the Stars, giving him 36 on the season.

Steve Ott erased a 4-3 deficit with 6:13 left in regulation, roughly seven minutes after T.J. Oshie had given St. Louis the lead.

"When you score four goals on the road you should come away with two points," Blues coach Andy Murray said. "Overall our attention to defensive detail wasn't what we needed it to be."

With the game tied at 4, Daley skated up the right side and fired Mike Modano's centering pass past Blues goalie Chris Mason.

"I found a hole," Daley said. "I think it just bounced off my stick and went in."

Matt Climie made 22 saves in his NHL debut, replacing top goalie Marty Turco, who was sidelined with a lower-body injury. Climie was an emergency callup from Idaho of the ECHL, where he was 27-12-1 with a League-best 2.30 goals-against average.

Ducks 5, Sharks 2 | Video

Bobby Ryan scored twice and Ryan Getzlaf had four assists as Anaheim furthered its case as a playoff team with an impressive victory against San Jose at HP Pavilion.

Getzlaf set up goals by Ryan, Corey Perry and Teemu Selanne, helping the Ducks win for the 10th time in 12 games. Anaheim stayed in seventh place in the Western Conference, one point behind sixth-place Columbus and two ahead of Nashville and St. Louis with three games to play. Anaheim will host San Jose on Sunday night.

"It's a situation where I know he's there," Getzlaf said of Ryan, who has carved out a permanent place opposite Perry on Anaheim's top line. "I may not know he's right beside the net, but I know he's back there somewhere, so I can throw it and trust that he's going to make the play on it."

Joe Thornton and Milan Michalek scored for the Sharks, whose lead over Boston for the NHL's best record stands at one point with four games to play. Evgeni Nabokov made 23 saves, but San Jose lost at home in regulation for just the fourth time all season.

"They were flat-out dominant," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said of the Ducks' high-scoring line. "They were the top players in the game. We had last change, we could have matched anybody we wanted, but it wouldn't have mattered. They were playing that well."

With his four assists, Getzlaf surpassed Paul Kariya's 62-assist Anaheim record with 64 this season, while Ryan and Perry both reached 30 goals for the first time in their careers.

"I'm just not a big stats guy," Getzlaf said with a shrug.

The Sharks are six points in front of Detroit for the conference lead, but they were forced to play without Patrick Marleau, Ryane Clowe and Mike Grier on Saturday night. They have four games remaining in the regular season.

"Our transition game wasn't very good, our passing wasn't good, and that sets up turnovers," forward Jeremy Roenick said. "We weren't very good, and we were playing against a determined team that's fighting for its playoff lives. We can't have games like this. It's unacceptable."

Oilers 5, Canucks 3 | Video

Sam Gagner kept Edmonton's slim playoff hopes alive on Saturday.

The second-year forward paced the Oilers with a goal and two assists, leading the club to a huge victory against Vancouver at Rexall Place. Edmonton is three points behind St. Louis and Nashville in the race for the final Western Conference playoff spot.

Ales Kotalik, Denis Grebeshkov, Ales Hemsky and Sheldon Souray also scored and Dwayne Roloson made 43 saves to help the Oilers snap a three-game losing streak.

"There's been a lot going on here as of late," Gagner said. "Obviously, this game meant a lot to us, especially in the situation we're in. I thought the guys were ready to go and intense right from the drop of the puck. It was a huge win for us."

Mason Raymond, Kyle Wellwood and Alex Burrows scored for Vancouver, which missed a golden opportunity to move two points ahead of Calgary for the Northwest Division lead.

"At the end of the day, their goaltender played a real solid game," Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said of Roloson. "In my mind he was the difference in this game. One thing that was uncharacteristic was whenever we got close we made mistakes that we don't usually make and they found a way to put it in the back of our net, so they made us pay for our mistakes and we weren't able to do the same thing."

Wellwood made it a 4-3 game with just 1:37 left in regulation, but Hemsky secured the victory with an empty-net tally with 1:02 remaining.

"It was a big win, for sure," Oilers coach Craig MacTavish said after his 300th career win. "It buys us a little time and buys us a little hope and that's all we could ask for going into the game tonight."

Kings 6, Coyotes 1 | Video

Brian Boyle and Alexander Frolov each had two goals, Justin Williams added a goal and two assists and Jonathan Quick made 28 saves as Los Angeles cruised past Phoenix at the Staples Center.

"It was a great feeling to be able to help out, we've been having trouble scoring goals" said Boyle, a first-round selection by the Kings in the 2003 draft who has struggled to stay in the NHL full-time. The 6-foot-7, 252-pound rookie has three goals in four games since being recalled from Manchester of the AHL on March 27.

"I am trying to stay here for the rest of the year and hopefully string a few good games together," Boyle said.

Anze Kopitar had a goal and two assists, and Drew Doughty added two assists as the Kings snapped a three-game losing streak and improved to just 2-5-1 over their last eight games.

Shane Doan scored for Phoenix, which had won three in a row. Rookie goalie Al Montoya made his third consecutive start for the Coyotes and suffered his first NHL loss. He shut out Colorado 3-0 on Wednesday night and beat the Kings 2-1 in Arizona on Thursday night before yielding a half-dozen goals Saturday.

"It's tough for a young guy, their team came out pretty hard tonight," Phoenix coach Wayne Gretzky said. "They were moving their feet and were physical early in the game. We gave the puck away twice and all of a sudden it was 2-0."

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



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