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Nashville Predators 8, Phoenix Coyotes 2 FINAL @NHLdotcom

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) _ If the standings are any indication, the Nashville Predators are already in playoff form.

Steve Sullivan led eight scorers with a goal and three assists, and the Predators moved up to fifth in the Western Conference by routing the Phoenix Coyotes 8-2 on Saturday night.

The Predators were eighth until they beat Anaheim in overtime Friday night to move ahead of St. Louis. They improved two more spots with their second win in two trips to the new Glendale Arena, advancing past idle Dallas and Calgary, which lost at Ottawa.

``We knew we could leapfrog them,'' Sullivan said. ``We're trying to put ourselves in a good position. We don't want to let it come down to the last five or six games. We want to try _ if we can _ to get a cushion, get really nice and thick into the middle of things.''

The score was a season high for the Predators, who won their third straight and improved to 4-1-1 since snapping a three-game losing streak. It also was a season worst for the Coyotes, 2-9-1-1 in their last 13 games.

``It can only go up from rock bottom,'' forward Jeff Taffe said.

Nashville's Tomas Vokoun had 24 saves _ 22 between Fredrik Sjostrom's goal on the Coyotes' first shot 34 seconds in and a power-play goal by Taffe with 6:33 left.

In the interim, the Predators wore out two Phoenix goalies.

``A lot of pucks found a way to get in,'' Predators coach Barry Trotz said. ``I mean, there's no explanation. There's nothing we're doing differently.''

The Coyotes pulled Brian Boucher with 9:32 left in the second period after he stopped nine of 14 shots. Greg Johnson had a short-handed goal against Boucher, and Sullivan, Marek Zidlicky, Martin Erat and Kimmo Timonen also scored on him.

Jean-Marc Pelletier, who earned his first NHL victory in four starts Friday night, allowed goals to Jim McKenzie, Denis Arkhipov and Vladimir Orszagh while making 12 saves.

``I thought Jean-Marc responded well under difficult circumstances,'' Phoenix coach Bob Francis said. ``We were exposed in every facet of the game.''

Scott Walker, whose overtime goal beat Anaheim the night before, had three assists to enhance his reputation as Phoenix's nemesis.

Walker had three goals against the Coyotes in a 3-3 tie at Nashville on Dec. 22 and scored the first goal ever in the Coyotes' new arena five days later.

Johnson tied the score at 1 with 8:37 left in the first period _ only 15 seconds into a Phoenix power play. The Predators captain cut into the slot and deflected a shot by Adam Hall, who got the puck when it got past the Mike Comrie after Boucher tried to clear it with board-hugging pass.

Sullivan put a wrist shot over Boucher's right shoulder after a crossing pass from Walker with 4:52 to go, and Zidlicky knocked in his own rebound after a pass from Walker behind the net with 3:05 left.

In the second period, Erat scored from the slot 5:55 in, and Timonen sent Boucher to the bench with a one-timer 4:23 later.

McKenzie, like Sullivan a former Coyote, made it 6-1 when he scored against Pelletier with a wrister in the slot with 6:25 remaining in the second.

``You get a score against on the road, in the first minute of the game, it could have easily been the other way around, but there's a lot of character in this locker room,'' Sullivan said. ``We didn't let it rattle us and stayed with it. After we got some goals, we got some confidence.''

Sullivan, acquired Monday from Chicago, had three goals and an assist in his debut with the Predators on Wednesday and one goal and one assist Friday night. His second four-point game this week left him with 10 in three games.

Walker also has 10 points in his last three.

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