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Predators defeat Lightning, take Central lead

by Corey Long

TAMPA – Mike Ribeiro and Paul Gaustad scored goals in the first 4:08 of the first period to help the Nashville Predators defeat the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2 at Amalie Arena on Thursday.

Mike Santorelli also scored for the Predators (46-21-8), who are one point ahead of the St. Louis Blues for first place in the Central Division. Nashville (100 points) trails the Anaheim Ducks by one point for first place in the Western Conference.

Vladislav Namestnikov and Brian Boyle scored for Tampa Bay (46-22-7), which failed to clinch a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Goalie Ben Bishop was pulled at 6:54 of the second period after allowing three goals on 11 shots.

"It wasn’t our best effort, that’s no secret," Predators center Mike Fisher said. "But any time you can come into this building against a great team and get two points, you know that’s a great sign. We didn’t really generate a ton offensively, but we [scored] when we needed to."

Ribeiro gave the Predators a 1-0 lead at 3:28 of the first period when he redirected a slap shot from Roman Josi that slipped between Bishop’s pads.

Gaustad scored 40 seconds later on a put back of a slap shot by Predators forward Taylor Beck. Bishop saved Beck’s shot from the point, but Gaustad swung at the puck while it was in the air and sent it past Bishop.

"It was just one of those games, first one goes off Ribeiro’s leg and into the five-hole; second one gets swatted out of the air – that stuff happens," Bishop said. "If that’s the way teams have to beat you – by getting lucky bounces – it happens. I thought it was a great homestand, now, we got to go do it on the road."

Namestnikov trimmed the deficit to 2-1 at 19:31 of the first when he scored on a wraparound shot that bounced off of the pad of Predators goalie Pekka Rinne (28 saves) and went into the net.

"We got a little bit fortunate with our first two goals," Rinne said. "First couple shots went in, maybe we weren’t quite as good as them at the first half of the game but I thought we got better. It’s not by accident they have the best home record, they seem to be going really hard and on top of their game."

Santorelli’s goal at 6:47 of the second period gave the Predators a 3-1 lead and send Bishop off the ice. Santorelli skated around the net and took a shot that Bishop saved, but he failed to control the loose puck and Santorelli scored on the put back.

"Ben [Bishop] has been unreal for us," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "Would he like to have some of those back? There’s no question, but would we have liked not to turn the puck over on the first one? Yes. We had our chances. Maybe we deserved a little bit of a better fate. But when we played Florida [Panthers] the other night, they’re sitting there saying ‘we deserved a little bit of a better fate’. Tonight it was reversed. It happens."

Boyle pulled the Lightning, who are in second place in the Atlantic Division, within 3-2 on his 15th goal at 13:19 of the second. Tampa Bay forwards J.T. Brown and Jonathan Drouin each got an assist.

"It’s not easy coming in this building and walking out with a win," Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. "Our guys did enough and battled enough to get it done. We didn’t seem to have our best legs tonight but on the road sometimes you sit back a little when you have the lead. Pekka [Rinne] was tremendous and the penalty kill came through when we needed it."

The Lightning had a power-play opportunity with 4:19 left in the third period, but failed to generate any significant chances against Rinne.

"I’m pretty pissed off about our effort on the power play," Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said. "It’s pretty frustrating. We have a chance to get back in the game and we put that kind of effort, don’t win any battles on the wall. It was embarrassing. We had a chance to make a difference in the game and we didn’t do that."

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