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Preds chase Howard in win over Wings @NHL
A quick start paced the Nashville Predators to a big win at Detroit on Wednesday night.

Martin Erat scored the first of Nashville's four goals and Pekka Rinne made 34 saves to help the Predators beat the Red Wings 4-1 at Joe Louis Arena.

David Legwand gave Nashville a two-goal lead in the first period. Colin Wilson scored early in the second and Sergei Kostitsyn made it 4-0 midway through the period to end Jimmy Howard's night. Howard was pulled after giving up four goals on 16 shots and was replaced by Joey MacDonald.

"Howie's making the first save and we're not there to help out on the rebounds," Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. "That's been hurting us. That's been costing us games."

The Red Wings avoided getting shut out for the third time in four games late in the second when Ruslan Salei scored for the first time this season in his 53rd game with Detroit.

The Central Division-leading Red Wings had their cushion over second-place Nashville cut to five points. Detroit has lost three of four, scoring four goals during the stretch.

"It's absolutely unacceptable to compete like we did," Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "We're awful. The coach ain't getting the job done and neither are 22 players."

Nashville had lost five of six with the lone win coming against Detroit 3-0 on Saturday night.

"The playoffs are now," Preds coach Barry Trotz said. "We're five points behind Detroit in the division, but we're also five points from being out of the playoff picture."

The Predators did have a setback in their victory in a quiet Joe Louis Arena, losing center Marcel Goc in the first period to an undisclosed upper body injury. He assisted on Nashville's first goal, giving him 24 points in 49 games this season.

"He should be OK for Saturday," said Trotz, referring to Nashville's next game against Colorado.

Pavel Datsyuk's return on Monday in a 3-2 win over the New York Rangers helped the Red Wings -- a goal, assist and three takeaways - but Tomas Holmstrom didn't make quite the same impact after missing nine games with a hand injury. Holmstrom stood in front of the crease in his traditional position, but that didn't produce any redirected shots in the net or obstruct Rinne's view.

Howard had a clear view of Erat's goal, but couldn't get his glove on the wrist shot from the left circle a few minutes into the game.

The Predators scored their next three goals on rebounds.

Legwand knocked Dan Cleary off the puck in the right circle and scored from almost the same spot when Ryan Suter's shot caromed off Howard toward him.

Detroit had a chance to pull within a goal late in the first period and was denied by Rinne, who reached low to snatch Lidstrom's slap shot.

"That was a huge save," Trotz said. "That goal would've put them back in the game, then we did a good job of staying on top of them in the second period."

Wilson scored about a minute into the second period and Kostitsyn had a goal 10:26 into the second, leading to Howard's departure. MacDonald made 14 saves over the last 1 1/2 periods.

"Two big games against them," Predators forward Patric Hornqvist said. "We've got to catch those guys."

Wild 3, Avalanche 2 | HIGHLIGHTS

Niklas Backstrom turned in another strong performance with 23 saves, and Minnesota hung on to beat Colorado at the Xcel Energy Center. Antti Miettinen, Martin Havlat and John Madden scored for the Wild, who overcame a two-goal game by David Jones.

The Avalanche, still waiting on Peter Forsberg's work visa clearance, played without captain Adam Foote and lost another defenseman, Kyle Cumiskey, to a head injury in the first period.

The Avalanche fell to 3-8-0 in their last 11 games, and Craig Anderson lost his sixth straight start, giving up 21 goals over those games. He was pulled in the second period for Peter Budaj.

"Things aren't going too good right now," Jones said. "But that being said, I think we did better tonight than we did in the past few games. I guess that's the only positive we can take from this."

Backstrom improved to 16-4-2 in 22 starts against the Avalanche. He has given up two goals or less in five of six starts, with wins in four to help the Wild climb back in the Western Conference playoff race.

"When a goalie looks calm and controlled, he looks like he's on top of his game," Wild coach Todd Richards said. "I think Nik has a confidence now with the guys in front of him, and without question the guys in front of him have a confidence in Nik."

The first period featured three goals in a 51-second span. With Andrew Brunette screening Anderson and then deftly lifting defenseman Ryan Wilson's stick, Miettinen's power-play slap shot sped past Anderson to make him the eighth Wild player with at least 10 goals this season.

Just as the public address announcer was giving the recap, Jones snatched a loose puck off a faceoff and sent a shot between Backstrom's legs to tie it and prompt a groan from the crowd.

Havlat, however, responded with his team-high 15th goal. The All-Star produced one of his finest goals in two years with the Wild, muscling the puck away from Paul Stastny behind the net and pivoting to push a backhander past Anderson.

Jones could have had a hat trick, but his goal in the second period was immediately waved off, a ruling confirmed by the replay officials.

"The compete level was higher tonight. It was a decent road game, the way we came out and played," Avs coach Joe Sacco said. "Unfortunately we don't get the results we want."
"When a goalie looks calm and controlled, he looks like he's on top of his game.  I think Nik has a confidence now with the guys in front of him, and without question the guys in front of him have a confidence in Nik." -- Todd Richards
Madden, with Brad Staubitz screening Anderson, followed a few minutes later by reaching forward and zipping a snap shot into the back of the net as he did the splits. Budaj was summoned from the bench after that.

The Wild improved to 12-4-1 in division games, getting an important bounce back from a 1-0 loss at Phoenix on Saturday.

"We've got four lines playing hard every night, and it's tough to play against a team that keeps coming after you shift after shift," Backstrom said.

The Avalanche caught a break 23 seconds into the third period when Wild All-Star defenseman Brent Burns gave the puck away along the end back boards. Jones snagged it and flipped a pass from behind the net that appeared to deflect off Minnesota's Nick Schultz before pinballing into the net to cut the lead to 3-2.

Flames 5, Senators 2 | HIGHLIGHTS

Tim Jackman scored twice and Anton Babchuk had a goal and two assists in Calgary's victory against Ottawa at Scotiabank Saddledome.

Olli Jokinen and Curtis Glencross each had a goal and an assist for Calgary, which has won eight of nine. Since losing 6-0 at home to Minnesota on Jan. 19, the Flames have gone 8-0-1 to climb back into contention in the Western Conference playoff race.

Playing in his 800th NHL game, Robyn Regehr chipped in with two assists.

"We've stressed the last while about being positive and having fun," Glencross said. "Success comes with having fun and being positive."

Chris Kelly and Chris Campoli scored for Ottawa (17-30-8), which led 2-1 after the first period. The Senators have lost five straight in regulation, 11 in a row overall and are 1-13-4 in their past 18 games.

"It's the way this seems to be going," forward Nick Foligno said. "It's unfortunate. It's adversity, and we've been facing it all year. We've got to find a way to battle through it. The margin of error is very small. It's zero, actually."

Miikka Kiprusoff made his eighth straight start for the Flames and stopped 24 shots to improve to 24-18-3. Ottawa rookie Robin Lehner made 30 saves in the loss.

The Flames went 3-for-5 with the man advantage and killed all three Ottawa power plays.

"I thought we were just loose," Calgary coach Brent Sutter said. "We gave up a few too many odd-man rushes. We didn't keep it tight in our zone. We gave up some shots in the middle of the ice that we don't like to give up. In the second period, you started to see our three-zone game started to fall in place again."

Thanks to an early power play, the Flames put on some great pressure but were kept off the scoresheet due to several nice saves by Lehner. Shortly after stopping a shot through traffic by Jarome Iginla, Lehner stacked his pads to thwart Brendan Morrison.

Jackman opened the scoring at 8:40 of the first when the puck deflected off him and into the net after Lehner made a blocker save to stop Niklas Hagman's shot.

Just 37 seconds later, Kelly tied it when he took a pass from Jarkko Ruutu and snapped a shot to the short side past Kiprusoff. The Senators went ahead 2-1 two minutes later when Campoli took a point shot that hit Kiprusoff before bouncing up and over the Calgary goalie.

The Flames tied it again during a second-period power play when Jokinen redirected a pass from Glencross past Lehner. Jokinen returned the favor a short time later when he sprung Glencross on a breakaway. Glencross wired a perfect shot into the top corner over Lehner's outstretched glove.

The Flames took a 4-2 lead at 8:36 of the third when Babchuk fired a point shot past Lehner, who was screened by David Moss. Jackman rounded out the scoring on the power play when he tapped in a loose puck behind Lehner, who stopped Iginla's original shot before it trickled past him.

"Timely scoring from a lot of guys right now," Jackman said. "We're just playing well as a team."

Blackhawks 4, Oilers 1 | HIGHLIGHTS

Patrick Kane scored twice and Chicago snapped a two-game losing streak with a victory against Edmonton at Rexall Place.

For's full recap, click here.

Material from wire services and team media was used in this report.
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