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Preds edge Kings again on Hornqvist goal

by Brian Compton and Brian Hunter
Patric Hornqvist helped the Nashville Predators maintain their mastery of the Los Angeles Kings and stay a step ahead of the teams fighting for the eighth and final Western Conference playoff berth.

Hornqvist scored his team-leading 26th goal of the season with 3:31 remaining and the Predators held off the Kings on Sunday afternoon for a 3-2 win at Staples Center, their seventh straight against Los Angeles.

Nashville finished 3-1 on a four-game road trip and strengthened its hold on seventh place with 81 points. Detroit and Calgary have flipped back and forth between eighth and ninth, and play each other Monday night.

"If we could redo one period, then the rest of the trip we played pretty solid," Predators coach Barry Trotz said. "We had some emotional highs and lows on this trip, and when we can just play a solid game … like that, we'll have the chance to pick up some points."

Nashville gave up six goals in the third period on Thursday to lose in San Jose but followed up with a 1-0 win in Anaheim the following night before rallying in Los Angeles.

"That's the leadership inside this locker room," defenseman Shea Weber said. "Guys realize that if you dwell on one game like what happened in San Jose, you lose focus on what you need to do."

Dustin Brown put Los Angeles ahead 2-1 with a goal 5:56 into the third period, but the lead lasted all of 39 seconds before Colin Wilson got the equalizer for Nashville.

Hornqvist then followed with the game-winner past Jonathan Quick, who returned after a one-game absence for the birth of his child and finished with 28 saves.

Steve Sullivan opened the scoring for the Predators at 4:42 of the first period. The Kings allowed the first six shots of the game and fell behind when a shot by Sullivan knuckled and squeezed in between Quick's blocker and his body.

Anze Kopitar evened things up at 8:56 with a power-play goal. It was his 32nd of the season, tying his career high, and came on a day when the Kings honored him with his own bobblehead doll.

Brown gave Los Angeles its only lead with a wrister from the slot that beat Pekka Rinne, but Wilson made sure it was short-lived by tipping in the rebound of a Martin Erat shot.

"The way we approached the game today, we were lacking energy and lacking effort," Kopitar said. "It's not the way to start a game, especially against a team we haven't had success against, (and) most importantly, a team that is chasing us for a playoff spot. It's unacceptable."

Avalanche 5, Stars 3 | HIGHLIGHTS

Craig Anderson stood on his head once again, making 48 saves, and Paul Stastny scored twice as Colorado dealt Dallas a damaging loss at the American Airlines Center.

Chris Stewart scored the tie-breaking goal with 6:14 left in the second period and Stastny added some insurance with his 16th of the season with 7:37 remaining in the third.

"It's an important two points, no question," first-year coach Joe Sacco said. "We didn't play our best game of the season and our goaltender was outstanding this afternoon, like he's been all season, and he was a big reason why we came away with two points."

Anderson won his 35th game of the season -- one shy of his career total prior to signing with the Avalanche over the summer to be their No. 1 goaltender. He played like one again Sunday, stopping all 18 shots the Stars took in the third as they desperately tried to come back.

"For me it's just great to be part of a winning hockey club right now," Anderson said. "For us to continue to win and get into the playoffs, that's just a step."

Milan Hejduk and Darcy Tucker also scored for the Avalanche, who pulled to within one point of the Kings for fifth in the Western Conference.

Brandon Segal scored twice in an 82-second span of the middle period and Jamie Benn also lit the lamp for the Stars, who have 14 games remaining and are slowly fading out of the West playoff race.

"It's really frustrating," Segal said. "It's definitely bittersweet to get two goals and lose. We need wins right now, that's the most important thing. It's a do-or-die situation for us right now."

Hejduk started a long day for Dallas goalie Marty Turco by sending a wrister from the right circle through his pads to open the scoring 10:19 into the first. Benn tied the score 4:12 after that by converting a James Neal centering feed into a wide-open net.

In a back-and-forth second, Tucker's power-play goal at 4:28 gave the Avalanche a 2-1 lead, but the Stars quickly erased that and went ahead themselves after Segal struck at 5:59 and again at the 7:21 mark.

Stastny drew Colorado even with a power-play deflection at 11:05 and Stewart chased Turco from the net by putting in a wraparound. The second-year forward has 26 goals on the season.

"I think we're shooting and getting more shots through," Stastny said. "You can't get too cute. Sometimes when you get shots off, that's when plays open up."

Islanders 4, Maple Leafs 1 | HIGHLIGHTS

Blake Comeau had three more assists and Martin Biron made 26 saves as New York swept its pair of home games this weekend with a victory against Toronto.

Richard Park scored shorthanded for the Islanders (28-32-9), who pulled within seven points of Boston for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Isles now embark on a three-game West Coast trip that begins on Tuesday at Vancouver.

Comeau has been on a roll since right before the Olympic break started, as he has six goals and five assists in his last eight games. He is also riding a three-game point streak, with five assists in that span.

"I've felt good lately. I think it's a confidence thing," Comeau said. "I'm confident with the puck now with making plays and finishing. The guys I've been playing with lately have been playing really well, too."

Toronto jumped to an early lead as Nikolai Kuliemin scored on a breakaway just 57 seconds into the game. It was his second goal in two games.

But the Isles responded as Tim Jackman and Park scored just 6:04 apart to give the club a 2-1 lead. Trevor Gillies assisted on Jackman's goal at 2:51 for his first NHL point. Park's goal -- his eighth of the season -- came shorthanded at 8:55.

"We certainly didn't make it easy with the penalties," Islanders coach Scott Gordon said. "To be able to use our penalty kill to close the deal is nice. It's been a concern of ours, the special teams."

Frans Nielsen gave the Islanders a two-goal lead when he one-timed Comeau's feed from behind the net past Jean-Sebastien Giguere (28 saves) with 1:38 left in the second period. It was Nielsen's 10th goal of the season.

Matt Moulson sealed the deal for the Isles with his team-leading 25th goal of the season. Moulson, a restricted free agent this summer, parked himself in front of the net and one-timed a cross-ice pass from Josh Bailey past Giguere to make it 4-1.

The Islanders went 1-for-6 on the power play, while Toronto went 0-for-7.

"We're just not setting up and letting the puck do some work for us," Leafs coach Ron Wilson said. "We're holding onto pucks and when we do get a shot, we're not winning any puck battles in the slot to get a rebound or make a play."

Coyotes 3, Thrashers 2 (SO) | HIGHLIGHTS

When it comes to the shootout, Adrian Aucoin just can't miss.

The Phoenix defenseman improved to 4-for-4 in the breakaway competition as the Coyotes edged Atlanta at Philips Arena. All four of Aucoin's shootout goals are game-winners.

Phoenix has won 13 of its last 17 games. After setting a Coyotes single-season record with a 4-0 win Saturday at Carolina, Phoenix has 42 victories, one away from tying the franchise mark set by Winnipeg in 1984-85 — when overtime ties were not broken in shootouts.

"We got off to a sluggish start," said Coyotes goalie Jason LaBarbera, who made 39 saves. "Games like this, when you might not have your best game, you stick to it and make sure you stay on the same page."

Atlanta has lost six straight, including four at home. Maxim Afinogenov and Nik Antropov scored power-play goals for the Thrashers in the third period to help force overtime. Ondrej Pavelec made 32 saves for Atlanta, which has lost six in a row.

"The game shouldn't have been that close, but we couldn't put one in the net," Thrashers coach John Anderson said. "That's been a problem lately, but our power play did score two goals, so that's a bit of a plus."

Lee Stempniak has six goals in five games since joining the Coyotes at the trade deadline, as he broke a 1-1 tie midway through the third period. Matthew Lombardi scored his 15th goal of the season in the second.

"It's been a really good fit for me," Stempniak said. "It was a fresh start, leaving Toronto. These are easy guys to live with. We've developed some good chemistry."

Penguins 2, Lightning 1 | HIGHLIGHTS

Pascal Dupuis and Sergei Gonchar scored less than three minutes apart in the third period and Marc-Andre Fleury made 21 saves as Pittsburgh rallied for a win at Tampa Bay.

Gonchar scored what proved to be the game-winner at 5:17, when he ripped a slap shot past Antero Niittymaki (37 saves). Dupuis tied it 2:20 into the period, when he beat Niittymaki with a wrister.

''A comment in our dressing room after the game was that it felt like a playoff game, and they played it with intensity,'' Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. ''They were strong on pucks and they were making it hard. It wasn't until the third where we really kind of got pucks at the goalie and then converged on those situations.''

The game got off to a scary start, as Sidney Crosby limped to the bench following his first shift of the game. Crosby, who has 45 goals, became entangled with Lightning winger Steve Downie and his knee bent awkwardly as he crumpled to the ice. Crosby, though, managed to return shortly thereafter.

''There was a minute or two being pretty scared,'' Crosby said. "It was more of a stinger, and it didn't really stick around a whole lot, but it was scary nonetheless.''

Vincent Lecavalier scored the lone goal -- his 20th of the season -- for the Lightning, which came 8:09 into the second period. He nearly tied it with 2:22 left in the game, but Fleury made a phenomenal save on a slap shot.

"We played a very good game," Lecavalier said. "We got some penalties in the third that kind of gave them a little momentum and they took advantage of it. The last two games, we've been playing some good playoff hockey. It was a big game for us tonight. We needed that win, but we've got to keep going."

Wild 4, Blues 2

Mikko Koivu had a goal and an assist and Josh Harding made 36 saves as Minnesota skated past St. Louis at Xcel Energy Center.

Andrew Brunette and Guillaume Latendresse also scored in a three-goal first period for Minnesota, which pulled within a point of 10th-place St. Louis in the Western Conference.

"The more you play the more of a rhythm you get into," said Harding, who made his third straight start in place of injured goalie Niklas Backstrom. "I know I need to be sharp. If Backy was in there, he'd be doing the same job. I've got big shoes to fill."

The Blues pulled goalie Chris Mason after the team's No. 1 goalie stopped only four of seven shots. He was relieved by Ty Conklin, who made 12 saves over the final 40 minutes. Patrik Berglund and Paul Kariya scored for the Blues, who finished with a 4-2 record on their six-game road trip.

"The other teams around us and in front of us are winning, and this really hurts," Blues forward Keith Tkachuk said. "At this time of year, you can't take a shift off."

Antti Miettinen gave the Wild a 4-0 lead with his 17th goal of the season at 14:48 of the second period, when he drove to the net and sent Koivu's nifty feed past Conklin.

Berglund cut the lead to three when he beat Harding on the power play with 2:51 left in the second before Kariya scored at even strength 6:08 into the third. The Blues went 1-for-6 with the man advantage.

"Our power play has almost been our weakest link in a lot of games this year, and it's tough to win games when that's the way things are going," Blues forward T.J. Oshie said.

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

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