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Kessel snaps tie, Maple Leafs edge Predators after blowing three-goal lead

NHL.com @NHL

NASHVILLE - Phil Kessel scored the tiebreaking goal with 5:48 left in the third to give the Toronto Maple Leafs a 4-3 victory over the Nashville Predators on Monday night.

Alexei Ponikarovsky had a goal and assist, and Niklas Hagman and Matt Stajan also scored for the Maple Leafs, who squandered a 3-0 first-period lead. Marcel Goc, Cody Franson and Ryan Jones scored for Nashville.

Hagman gave Toronto a 1-0 lead 2:02 into the game when he put a shot between the pads of goalie Pekka Rinne.

Ponikarovsky doubled the Maple Leafs' advantage a little more than three minutes later. He skated in front and scored with a backhander that bounced off Rinne and in for a 2-0 lead.

Stajan made it 3-0 at 9:00 when he skated low in the slot and put a backhanded shot past Rinne, who was then replaced. Rinne allowed three goals on eight shots before Dan Ellis took over for the rest of the game.

Goc started Nashville's comeback with 2:22 left in the second period. Skating near the crease, Goc got control of the puck after it deflected off the stick of teammate J.P. Dumont and beat goalie Jonas Gustavsson with a backhander.

Rookie defenceman Franson brought the Predators within 3-2 at 4:21 of the third. Franson fired in a one-timer from above the right circle.

Less than two minutes later, Jones tied it when he tipped in the puck after a shot from Nick Spaling from a few feet inside the blue line deflected off a stick in front.

NOTES: Nashville C Jason Arnott returned after missing four games (upper body injury) and RW Jerred Smithson (broken hand) was back in for the first time since Dec. 22. ... The Maple Leafs played in Nashville for only the third time. ... Kessel has three winning goals this season.

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