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Preds edge Kings in L.A.

by Brian Compton
Ryan Jones kept the Nashville Predators in the thick of the postseason race on Monday night.

The rookie forward broke a 3-3 tie with 2:18 remaining, Joel Ward had a goal and an assist and J.P. Dumont had two assists, leading the Preds to a 4-3 victory against the Los Angeles Kings at the Staples Center.

The victory -- Nashville's eighth in 11 games -- allowed the club to move past Dallas and Edmonton in the Western Conference and into seventh place. The Predators are a point ahead of the Stars, and lead the No. 9 Oilers by two with 12 games left on the schedule. Dallas has a game in hand on Nashville, and Edmonton has two.

Monday started a stretch of six consecutive games against California teams for the Preds, who scored more than two goals for only the second time in 18 road contests (7-10-1).

On the winning tally, Predators defenseman Dan Hamhuis did a tremendous job of keeping the puck in the Kings' zone before ripping a slap shot that Jones tipped in the low slot. Erik Ersberg couldn't control the rebound, and Jones was able to collect it and poke it over the goal line for his seventh goal of the season.

''It was a good job by Dan Hamhuis,'' Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. ''The puck was at Dan's feet and he was trying to get it through. And Ryan Jones -- what he does best around the crease area is finding those loose pucks.''

After failing to convert on a pair of power plays, Anze Kopitar broke a scoreless tie at 14:42 of the first period. Dustin Brown's wrister from the top of the left circle hit the left post and caromed to the other side of the crease, where Kopitar put the rebound past Preds goalie Pekka Rinne. It was Kopitar's 25th goal of the season and sixth in eight games. Nashville tied it with 15 seconds left in the first period on Shea Weber's 19th tally.

"It's a tough one," Kings coach Terry Murray said. "It starts good, but when it comes down to making plays at critical times in the game, we don't make the plays. Just basic plays."

The teams exchanged power-play goals in the second period. Joel Ward gave Nashville a 2-1 lead at 1:24 on a pretty feed from Dumont, but Teddy Purcell tied things up 15 minutes later when he beat Rinne to make it 2-2.

''They have a really good goalie, and we managed to get three by him. But in the end, it wasn't enough,'' Brown said. ''We have to do a better job of keeping the puck out of our zone.''

Steve Sullivan put the Preds back in front before the intermission with his eighth goal of the season, but Michal Handzus once again tied the game for Los Angeles midway through the third period.

''We want to win every night, but our mentality right now is try and scrape points out of every game that we can and be as gritty as we can be,'' Sullivan said. ''Tonight was one of those games that puts us in a good position. We knew we had to win this game. We wanted to propel ourselves back into the playoffs and make sure we created some separation between us and them.''

Los Angeles will bring a six-game road losing streak into Boston on Thursday, starting a six-game trip that probably will determine its postseason fate. The No. 13 Kings -- who have lost three straight -- are six points behind Dallas.

"Tonight was one of those games that puts us in a good position.  We knew we had to win this game. We wanted to propel ourselves back into the playoffs and make sure we created some separation between us and them." -- Steve Sullivan
''We got away from our game,'' Kopitar said. ''We did a really good job of chipping the puck into their zone and getting the forecheck going, and we drew a lot of penalties off of that. But sometimes we get too fancy. They created turnovers and came right back into our zone.''

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

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