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Neal scores in shootout to lift Predators past Kings

by Robby Stanley

NASHVILLE -- James Neal's goal in the sixth round of a shootout gave the Nashville Predators a 4-3 win against the Los Angeles Kings at Bridgestone Arena on Tuesday.

Goaltender Pekka Rinne made six saves in the shootout to help the Predators improve to 8-1-1 at home. He had 18 saves through overtime.

"They’re a big and strong team, and they're really experienced and solid from top to bottom," Predators forward Eric Nystrom said. "You know you have to bring your 'A' game, and they're used to teams bringing their 'A' game every night and being in atmospheres like that. The building was rocking, the fans were going nuts, the intensity was high, and that's a good experience for us to learn how to play in those type of games. And thank God for Pekka."

Martin Jones made a rare start for Los Angeles and stopped five shots in a row in the shootout, but the Kings fell to 1-4-4 on the road. Jones had 30 saves through 65 minutes.

"If I remember right, we had one of these marathon shootouts last year too in LA, but it didn't turn out the way we wanted it to. Jones gave us a chance to win, and we just couldn't score,” Kings center Anze Kopitar said.

Craig Smith gave the Predators a 1-0 lead at 6:24 of the first period when he converted on a breakaway attempt. Smith got behind the defense and took a pass from Colin Wilson to enter the zone and beat Jones for his seventh goal of the season.

Los Angeles tied the game 1-1 at 11:32 of the first period. Justin Williams' shot deflected off the skate of Jamie McBain and past Rinne. The goal was McBain's first of the season; Williams picked up his sixth point in five games with an assist.

Marian Gaborik gave Los Angeles a 2-1 lead 1:01 into the second period. Jeff Carter flipped a puck into the zone ahead of Gaborik on a lead pass and he was able to catch up to it and shoot it past Rinne for his fourth goal.

Nystrom laid a big hit on Los Angeles defenseman Brayden McNabb in the second period that seemed to turn the momentum in Nashville's favor.

"It's just one of those ones where I was skating my forecheck route, and I was coming in hard to support the play and the guy just turned right into me," Nystrom said. "I've had a couple of those. Those are good times to get a big hit. We were kind of on our heels a little bit. That sparked the building a little, and that's how some small plays can make a big difference in a game."

Nashville defenseman Ryan Ellis tied the game 2-2 at 17:36 of the second period on a one-timer from the point.

Nystrom gave the Predators a 3-2 lead 52 seconds later when he deflected a shot by Taylor Beck. It capped an effective period by Nystrom.

"When somebody goes out and is there to score goals, but also is there to make some big hits, fight, do all of those things, and he has a great mustache, it was great to see him get that hit and get everybody going," Wilson said.

Drew Doughty tied the game for Los Angeles 38 seconds into the third period when he went coast-to-coast and fired a quick wrist shot past Rinne. Doughty was able to maneuver around Nashville defenseman Anton Volchenkov and use him as a screen.

"He skated down the middle of the ice and sunk the puck in the middle of the net," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. "I should have used him in the shootout."

Nashville killed two penalties late in the third period to prevent Los Angeles from taking the lead. The Predators hit the post twice in overtime.

Los Angeles will travel to play the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday. Nashville will host the Edmonton Oilers on American Thanksgiving night.

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