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Predators snap losing streak by beating Flames

by John Manasso

NASHVILLE – Nashville Predators coach Barry Trotz said he had a conversation with center Mike Fisher during one of the team's many flights on its recent five-game road trip about why Fisher has begun scoring so much.

He said Fisher wasn't going to the net. Trotz said he wasn't sure if it was a lack of focus from the lockout or all of the shinny that players played during it. Trotz's solution was to station Fisher in front of the net on the power play. The gambit seems to have worked, as Trotz has noticed Fisher's increased confidence.

Fisher scored twice more on Thursday, giving him five goals in his last five games and helping the Predators snap a four-game losing streak with a 5-3 win against Calgary, extending the Flames' road losing streak to eight games.

"He got more familiar with front of the net and even 5-on-5, he's thinking consciously that 'I've got to get to the net, that's where the goal are,'" Trotz said.

Nashville was playing its first home game after a disastrous road trip in which the Predators went 1-4-0 and allowed 20 goals in the four losses. They made a few lineup changes on Thursday, sitting out forward Craig Smith for the first time this season while reinserting forward Sergei Kostitsyn and reuniting him with Fisher and Martin Erat on what has been the Predators' top line for three seasons.

It worked, as Fisher scored twice at even strength, Erat added a goal and an assist and the trio was a combined plus-5.

"I think it was kind of a regroup and a reset," Fisher said. "We've had kind of a tough trip and it's always nice coming home in front of your own fans. It's a different feeling and we can feed off the energy and we've played well here all year and we had that on our minds."

Nashville improved to 7-2-4 at Bridgestone Arena; it's 5-11-2 on the road. Nashville's 18 road games were the most in the League at the start of the day. The win pulled Nashville within two points of the eighth in the Western Conference.

Calgary, which scored two of its goals while shorthanded, has not won a road game since Feb. 17 at Dallas. The Flames are 0-7-1 in their last eight away from Scotiabank Saddledome and are tied with Colorado for the fewest points in the Western Conference (26).

Flames coach Bob Hartley lamented the number of turnovers by his team, which led 1-0 and 2-1 in the first period.

"We started the game, we wanted to start with jump and we wanted to get the first goal and that's exactly what we did," he said, "but, again, giveaways simply killed us."

Among the most egregious turnovers that the Flames committed led to Fisher's first goal, which allowed the Predators to tie the game going into first intermission. Calgary's Chris Butler had possession of the puck in the corner but attempted to reverse it behind his net. Erat stole the pass and fed a wide-open Fisher, who fired home a wrist shot at 18:09.

"Obviously, that one really hurt us but we're still in the game," Hartley said. "... I know hockey's a game of mistakes but we're making way too many mistakes."

Hartley said the Flames' confidence "is so fragile that it seems we can't overcome it."

Nashville took command in the second period. Predators defenseman Roman Josi skated down the right side and threaded a backhand pass through four players, leaving a wide-open net for Fisher to slam it in.

"That was a [heck] of a play," Trotz said of Josi, a second-year player. "He sees the ice so well. He's an up-and-coming, top, top player in this League if he keeps going the way he is."

Trotz credited captain Shea Weber, who also is Josi's defense partner.

"A lot of that goes to your leadership," Trotz said. "A lot of that goes to Webs. They talk all the time in terms of how to play and I think he gives him a lot of confidence."

Exactly one minute later, Nick Spaling redirected Victor Bartley's shot-pass into the net for the first point of Bartley's NHL career. Bartley and Kevin Klein each finished a game-best plus-3.

In the first period, the Predators continued to battle a penchant for yielding shorthanded goals. They surrendered two in the first period -- the first time in franchise history they had given up more than one in a period -- making it three shorthanded goals allowed in three games. Still, they managed to come away tied 2-2 at first intermission.

"We just stayed with it," Josi said. "We said at intermission, we're playing a good game but they just scored twice and after the first period we played really well."

Mark Giordano scored the first of those shorthanded goals at 5:01 with T.J. Brodie in the penalty box for hooking. Josi had trouble handling a puck at the point and Lee Stempniak gained possession, making it a 1-on-1. Giordano joined the play, turning it into an odd-man-rush, and beat Pekka Rinne with a slap shot high to the glove side.

After Mikael Backlund was assessed a double minor for high-sticking Ryan Ellis, Nashville tied the game at 1-1 when Erat scored his first goal since Feb. 5 by deflecting Josi's point shot at 11:36. But after Calgary then regained the lead after another odd-man rush, this time a 3-on-2. Giordano set up Blake Comeau for a 12-foot snap shot at 13:05.

Despite earning two power plays in the first 11:30 of the third period, the Flames managed only two shots on net during that stretch. Calgary also had an apparent goal by Backlund waived off with 5:24 left in regulation, as the officials ruled Alex Tanguay was in the crease.

Brandon Yip made it 5-2 with 4:06 left in regulation, completing a 2-on-1 from Kevin Klein. Jarome Iginla scored a 6-on-4 power-play goal with 60 seconds left and Miikka Kiprusoff on the bench for an extra attacker.

Calgary will try to end its road woes on Friday at Columbus; the Blue Jackets are 7-0-4 in their past 11 games.

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