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Predators power play rallies past Lightning

by John Manasso

NASHVILLE -- Nashville Predators right wing Patric Hornqvist is accustomed to physical pain. The hallmark of his game is to stand in front of the net and score so-called greasy

Hornqvist experienced pain and gain in the Predators' 3-2 victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Bridgestone Arena on Thursday night. He scored the game-winning goal about three minutes after taking a slap shot off his leg and skating to the bench.

Hornqvist's goal was Nashville's third on the power play, helping the Predators overcome a 2-0 Lightning lead.

Hornqvist's 11th of the season came with 6:04 remaining. He took a feed from Mike Fisher on the doorstep and somehow threaded it through Lightning goalie Ben Bishop. It came with three seconds left in a penalty to Ryan Malone for hooking.

Nashville had kept the play alive in Tampa Bay's zone for almost 90 seconds at that point.

"I think we really did a really good job in moving the puck," said Hornqvist, who was hit by Ryan Ellis' slap shot with about 10:25 left. "Our second effort was really good. It felt like we got the puck back almost every time, and that obviously leads to tired defensemen out there, and then we can make some plays. I think overall we did a really good job, and 5-on-5 too."

Predators captain Shea Weber, with one practice under his belt after helping Canada win a gold medal at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, had two assists on the power play, which entered the night ranked seventh in the NHL.

"It obviously helps to keep playing," Weber said. "The break is nice for your body to rejuvenate and get back to full health, but at the same time to keep playing at that speed is tough to replicate in practice."

Predators coach Barry Trotz said his team did not change anything on the power play during the Olympic break. Nashville scored two power-play goals in seven games before the break but didn't have a lot of chances (16).

"No, I think it's just executing," Trotz said. "… Power plays go just like anything else, it's just like goal-scoring; sometimes they go in and sometimes they don't. If you're getting chances, you've got a chance to score. We've been moving the puck pretty well, I think, making good decisions, understanding. Guys have been together for a while. You need guys to be in position and guys have to execute the play."

Nashville (26-24-10) remained four points out of the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference after the Dallas Stars defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 4-1.

Predators goalie Carter Hutton, who has carried the load for Nashville since the middle of January but is poised to yield the net once Pekka Rinne returns from a conditioning assignment with the Milwaukee Admirals of the American Hockey League, improved to 7-2-2 in his past 11 games. Hutton made 14 saves; the Predators yielded seven shots in the final two periods combined.

That total had Lightning coach Jon Cooper steamed. He called his team's performance "disgracefully embarrassing" after the Lightning blew a two-goal, first-period lead and lost for the fifth time in their past seven games.

Tampa Bay (33-21-5) was second in the Atlantic Division but fell two points behind the Montreal Canadiens, a 6-5 shootout winner against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Lightning are tied at 71 points with the Toronto Maple Leafs, which lost 5-4 in overtime to the New York Islanders, and are three points from eighth place in the Eastern Conference.

"I'm really, really disappointed the way we played," Cooper said. "Seven shots in the last two periods? This team is -- I love this team -- we have a special group of guys in there, and I'm just really shocked we did that. We've worked hard all year to put ourselves in the position we wanted to be in all along. We wanted to be in the conversation in March and April, and you can't let games like this slip through your fingers."

The Predators' comeback began when the Lightning were penalized for too many men on the ice at 10:31 of the second period. Ellis faked a slap shot and fed Matt Cullen down low. Cullen roofed a shot into a wide-open net at 12:05 for his first goal since Nov. 27, a span of 29 games.

Nashville scored its second power-play goal 71 seconds later. Lightning center Vladislav Namestnikov, playing his second NHL game, was called for hooking, and Predators defenseman Roman Josi took advantage of some open ice, skating in from the left point and ripping a slap shot past Bishop's glove side. The goal was the Swiss Olympian's ninth of the season.

Josi credited Hornqvist for a screen on that shot.

"The goalie didn't see anything at all," Josi said. "I saw an opening up there and, yeah, [Weber] made a great pass to me too."

Tampa Bay's Ondrej Palat set up the game's first goal, which came at 5:26 of the first period. He faked out Nashville defenseman Seth Jones, forcing Hutton to make a difficult save that drew him far out of the crease to his left. Martin St. Louis was alone in front of the net and tapped in the rebound for his 26th goal.

St. Louis scored his second of the game less than four minutes later, taking advantage of a tripping penalty on Ellis. Standing at the right faceoff dot, St. Louis wristed a shot at Hutton that handcuffed the goalie and trickled through his legs over the goal line at 9:13.

"Our battle level was very low," St. Louis said. "You have got to grind it out in this League and we didn't do that. We don't cycle pucks, we try to go tape-to-tape in the offensive zone, but there are five guys playing defense and taking lanes away so you need to cycle the puck and get your [defense] involved. We were one and done, and you play in your zone a lot when you're one and done."

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