NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) _ Only one number mattered to the Nashville Predators
on Saturday, and it wasn't the difference between the league's lowest payroll
and the NHL's biggest spenders _ the New York Rangers.
Andrew Hutchinson scored a power-play goal 3:50 into overtime, and the
Predators beat the Rangers 2-1 for their fifth victory in six games in their
chase for the 6-year-old franchise's first playoff berth.
The Predators started this season with a league-low, $23-million payroll
compared to $77 million for the Rangers, and Nashville coach Barry Trotz said
earlier this season that beating New York would have been more a matter of
``Now it's all about getting two points,'' he said of a victory that moved
them closer to a playoff spot in the Western Conference.
New York came into the game 12th in the Eastern Conference and dropped its
fourth in six games, losing most of their momentum from their 6-3 victory over
the New York Islanders in interim coach Tom Renney's debut.
Matthew Barnaby tied it at 1 in the third period for the Rangers.
But even though they swept the season series from the Islanders 6-0, the
Rangers are 0-3-1-2 in games immediately after playing their biggest rivals.
New York has not won two straight since Dec. 29-30.
Nashville, which outshot New York 43-26, finally got the advantage it needed
in overtime when Alex Kovalev was penalized with a double minor for
high-sticking Steve Sullivan and drawing blood from his nose at 1:02 of the
``I was trying to lift his stick, and I hit him in the face,'' Kovalev said.
``I missed his stick.''
New York didn't record a single shot in overtime, and Nashville finally got
the puck past backup goalie Jussi Markkanen when Hutchinson scored his third on
a one-timer from the top of the left circle off a pass from Kimmo Timonen.
It was the first overtime goal for Hutchinson, recalled from Milwaukee of
the AHL on Wednesday after defenseman Jason York fractured a cheekbone in
``To win the game for your team, it's amazing,'' said Hutchinson, who had an
Admirals bag at his feet in the locker room.
Sullivan also had an assist, his 12th point in six games since being
acquired from Chicago on Feb. 16.
Nashville had been shut out on its first nine power-play chances before
Hutchinson's goal gave the Predators 10 man-advantage goals in six games.
Andreas Johansson scored an unassisted goal in the second period.
Renney wasn't too disappointed with his team's performance.
``We pressed on, we fought through some penalty-kill stuff that we would
rather not have. But we stayed with the program, continued to work hard, and it
was anybody's game,'' he said.
The Predators didn't seem ready for the afternoon faceoff as New York
outshot them 13-6 in the first period. Trotz credited goalie Tomas Vokoun with
keeping them in the game.
``Without the performance of Vokoun in the first five or six minutes of the
game, we don't win that hockey game. He was outstanding,'' Trotz said.
Johansson got Nashville going in the second as he took the puck, knocked
loose by teammate Jeremy Stevenson from Rangers forward Jed Ortmeyer, and
scored on a slap shot from the left circle at 7:25 for a 1-0 lead.
Markkanen stopped 22 shots as the Predators spent most of the second period
camped in front of him, outshooting New York 23-7. He even had to kill off a
five-on-three advantage late caused by consecutive too many men on the ice
penalties against the Rangers.
``I don't know what happened,'' Renney said. ``We'll take full
responsibility for that as coaches. That's our job.''
Barnaby tied it at 4:44 of the third off a pass from Greg de Vries in front
of the goal. Barnaby scored his 10th goal by tapping the puck past Vokoun.