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Flyers down Predators, move closer to wild-card spot

by Adam Kimelman

PHILADELPHIA -- For two periods Saturday it was hard to tell which team sat atop the NHL standings and which was fighting for its Stanley Cup Playoff life.

The Philadelphia Flyers, battling for a postseason spot, used a strong defensive effort to lead after two periods, then held on to defeat the Presidents' Trophy-leading Nashville Predators 3-2 in a shootout at Wells Fargo Center.

Jakub Voracek and Wayne Simmonds scored in the tiebreaker, and goalie Rob Zepp finished with a flourish, making a glove save on Craig Smith and celebrating the win with a fist pump.

"I might have overdone it a bit," Zepp said of the celebration. "I got caught up in the moment."

The win was the Flyers' third in 10 shootouts this season and moved them within four points of the Boston Bruins in the race for the second Eastern Conference wild card.

Zepp made 20 saves, and Simmonds and Ryan White scored for Philadelphia (25-23-11), which defeated the first-place team in the League after back-to-back losses to teams below them in the standings.

Colin Wilson and Smith scored for Nashville (39-13-7), and goalie Pekka Rinne made 31 saves.

The loss was the Predators' second straight after their six-game winning streak ended Thursday at the New York Islanders. It's the second time the Predators have lost consecutive games.

Nashville finished with 22 shots but had seven through two periods before getting the offense going in the third and overtime.

"Our first two periods weren't good at all," Predators center Mike Fisher said. "Probably the worst we played in a long time. Give them credit, they came hard, forechecked, skated well. ... Just overall they deserved to win. They were the better team most of the time."

Nashville had 10 shots in the third period and five in overtime. Defenseman Cody Franson and forward Michael Santorelli each made his Predators debut after being acquired from the Toronto Maple Leafs in a trade on Sunday. Franson played 17:52 and Santorelli 12:11.

"I thought the second half of the game we showed up and played pretty well," Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. "There were a lot of chances and we could've scored in the third period and overtime."

The shootout historically has not been kind to the Flyers; their 30 wins are tied for the fewest in League history, their 58 losses tied for second-most.

"Nothing really goes through my head [on shootouts]," Flyers coach Craig Berube said. "Shootouts are shootouts. Pick guys and watch."

Voracek, shooting first, deked Rinne to the ice and backhanded a puck over the prone goaltender.

Zepp made a stick save on Matt Cullen, and then Simmonds had his chance. He skated in and snapped a wrist shot between Rinne's pads.

"I tried to get him to bite [on a move]," Simmonds said. "I was talking to Jake when he came back, and he [Rinne] bit on Jake's move. I tried to get him to bite again and he didn't even move. I figured he thought I was going to deke from there so I just shot it."

Zepp stopped Smith and the Flyers had two points.

"I think that was one of our best 60-minute efforts," Flyers captain Claude Giroux said. "In the first period I think we had a good start. We were able to get some pucks to the net. Wayne's goal was a great example of what we wanted to do tonight."

Simmonds' goal, at 8:59 of the first period, was his Flyers-best 23rd of the season. He got position on Predators captain Shea Weber in the left circle and tipped Michael Del Zotto's shot down between Weber's skates. The puck bounced on net, past Rinne's glove and inside the right post.

The goal gave Simmonds a point in seven straight games, a new career-best. He has five goals and four assists during his streak.

The Predators went 13:47 without a shot when Wilson scored his 19th of the season with 1:02 remaining in the first. He intercepted a Del Zotto pass in the neutral zone, skated in and beat Zepp with a wrist shot from the left side.

White's second goal of the season gave the Flyers a 2-1 lead. He started the play by forcing Seth Jones into a turnover deep in the Predators zone, and White finished with a wrist shot from above the hashmarks that beat Rinne.

The goal gave White a point in four straight and a goal in back-to-back games for the second time in his six-season NHL career; he had a goal in consecutive games Feb. 6-8, 2014, as a member of the Montreal Canadiens. It's also the first time in White's NHL career he has a point in more than two straight games.

“I think our line (White, Brayden Schenn and R.J. Umberger) has done a good job the last couple of games getting the forecheck, moving our feet and putting the puck in the right area," White said. "You look at that shift there we had three guys buzzing on the puck, and sure enough it spit out to me and I had a great opportunity to put the puck in the net."

Nashville got even 23 seconds into the third on Smith's goal that finished a 3-on-2 rush. The Predators play at the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday.

"Feels like we haven't been on top of our game the last little bit," Fisher said. "Have to turn it around and find ways to get better from it. ... We got a point and we'll roll into Buffalo tomorrow."

The Flyers host the Washington Capitals on Sunday (12:30 p.m. ET; NBC, SN).

"We've come a long ways," Berube said of the Flyers, who were 13 points out of a playoff spot on Jan. 17. "We got a long way to go."

Follow Adam Kimelman on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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