NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Blame fatigue or sloppiness. The Nashville Predators finished up their 12th game in 20 days happy to escape with a victory over the struggling Pittsburgh Penguins.
Scott Walker scored his first two goals since returning from surgery that kept him out of 33 games, and the Predators held off Pittsburgh 5-4 Sunday night after blowing most of a four-goal lead.
Nashville coach Barry Trotz said his Predators relaxed too quickly.
"I thought we were real sloppy in our clears and our passes and not real sharp. ... Just chalk it up to 12 games in 20 nights. Guys are trying to get a little rest, and mentally they're not sharp," Trotz said.
Paul Kariya, Martin Erat and Adam Hall also scored for the Predators, who rank fourth in the Western Conference. Scott Hartnell finished with two assists.
The Penguins, who scored more than one goal for the first time in four games, lost their sixth straight and remain at the bottom of the East. Ryan Malone and Colby Armstrong each had a goal and an assist, and Michel Ouellet and Josef Melichar also scored. Rookie Sidney Crosby had an assist.
Nashville was very happy to be home after playing 10 of the last 13 on the road. The Predators chased Sebastien Caron out of the net 1:11 into the second after Walker's second goal made it 4-1.
"This is our fourth game in six nights on the road," Pittsburgh coach Michel Therrien said. "It's not easy. The effort was there for most of our play. Sometimes you can't always blame the goalie. It's the mental mistakes that causes goals."
Marc-Andre Fleury, playing for the first time in the building where he was drafted in 2003 first overall, gave up a breakaway goal to Hall less than two minutes later for a 5-1 lead. Fleury then stopped the next 17 shots.
The Predators nearly squandered the lead as the Penguins refused to quit. They outshot Nashville 40-32, including 17-5 in the third. Armstrong scored his third of the season at 9:15 of the third, squeezing the puck through goaltender Tomas Vokoun's legs to make it 5-4.
"I don't know what's going on," Fleury said. "We had such a good stretch. Now it seems so tough to just get a win. Hopefully, it's going to change."
Nashville now has allowed at least 33 shots in five of its last six games.
"I don't care what the score is. With the way the game is now, no lead is safe, so you have to focus," he said.
Malone put Pittsburgh up 1-0 with an assist off Vokoun's right foot after sweeping the puck off the rebound of his own miss past the goalie at 4:26 of the first period.
The Predators tied the game 96 seconds later when Walker shot from the right circle and knocked the puck off the right post. It was his second this season and first in his fifth game since returning from sports hernia surgery. His second was a bit of luck as the puck went off his helmet, and Nashville improved to 10-0-2 with him in the lineup.
"I'm just trying to get myself back in and keep everyone going and not slow everything down," Walker said.
Maxime Talbot may have given the Penguins an emotional boost after a fight with Nashville forward Darcy Hordichuk after Hordichuk's clean check of Ziggy Palffy at 5:58 of the second. Ouellet scored on a power-play at 17:23, and Melichar got his first goal less than a minute later to pull within 5-3.
Notes: Nashville now is unbeaten in six straight with Pittsburgh going back to Oct. 8, 2000. ... Kariya has at least a point in four straight games, while Sullivan extended his own streak with at least a point to five. Perreault now has 19 points in his last 18 games, including a point in five straight. ... Pittsburgh dropped to 9-2-3 when scoring first. Nashville improved to 17-0-3 when leading after the second period.