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Preds rally for sixth straight win

by Brian Compton and Brian Hunter
The St. Louis Blues' playoff chances took a serious hit on Sunday at the hands of the red-hot Nashville Predators.

Dustin Boyd scored his second goal of the game 48 seconds after teammate Patric Hornqvist tied it late in the third period, helping the Preds rally for a 3-2 win at the Scottrade Center on Sunday night. Nashville has won six in a row.

"Dustin's had a couple games where he's rattled a few off the post," Preds coach Barry Trotz said. "I just kept putting him out there, hoping that sooner or later he's going to break through."

Carlo Colaiacovo had a goal and assist for the Blues, who fell to an NHL-worst 12-18-5 at home. They were 9-3 in the previous 12 games, but remained six points out of the final Western Conference spot with 10 games to go.

"They put a little more effort in," Blues forward David Backes said of the Predators. "We didn't match what they were bringing to the table. We've got to start doing something different because we're getting the same result doing the other thing."

Colaiacovo's power-play goal 16:28 into the game ended Pekka Rinne's shutout streak at 149:04, including 1-0 victories over Columbus Saturday and 5-0 over Minnesota on Thursday. Rinne made 59 saves before the goal and is 8-1 since the Olympic break. He made 23 saves on Sunday.

"He played another unreal game," Boyd said. "It could have been a different game if he isn't back there."

Boyd erased the 1-0 deficit with his first goal since being acquired from Calgary at the trade deadline, but David Perron but St. Louis back in front when he backhanded a shot past Rinne at 3:29 of the third. It was his 19th goal of the season.

But Hornqvist scored his team-leading 28th goal on a rebound with 3:34 left, and Boyd also put a rebound past Chris Mason with 2:46 remaining after a Blues player diverted the puck to his stick off Martin Erat's centering pass from behind the net.

The six-game winning streak has Nashville in fifth place in the Western Conference, two points ahead of No. 6 Los Angeles.

"I think that was the best period for a long, long time," Hornqvist said. "If we keep working like that, we're going to get lots of points down the stretch."

The Blues entered the night at 22-11-4 on the road, second best in the NHL. But the Predators handed them their ninth third-period blown lead and St. Louis fell to 12-18-5 at home.

"It hurts tremendously," Blues interim coach Davis Payne said. "We knew we were in a position with great opportunity with this number of games to go. To have a lead late and all of a sudden end up with nothing, it stings pretty good."

Sabres 5, Hurricanes 3 | HIGHLIGHTS

Jochen Hecht scored twice to spark a four-goal, second-period outburst for Buffalo, which dealt a major blow to Carolina's postseason hopes.

Toni Lydman and Tim Kennedy also scored in the first 11:11 of the second as the Sabres opened up a 5-1 lead and silenced the home fans at the RBC Center.

"I think we've established that we are back on track, especially on the road," Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said.

Tim Connolly's power-play goal in the first opened the scoring and Ryan Miller made 27 saves. The Sabres opened up a nine-point lead in the Northeast Division over the Canadiens and Senators.

"If we play like the last three games, it's going to be tough to beat us," Lydman said.

Hecht, who has five goals in as many games, tallied at 1:49 of the second and again on the power play at the 4:30 mark. Lydman ended the day of Carolina rookie goalie Justin Peters by putting a wrister past him at 8:45 off a 2-on-1 break.

Manny Legace relieved and Sergei Samsonov answered 12 seconds later by deflecting a Brett Carson shot past Miller, getting the Hurricanes on the board, but Kennedy responded by taking a Thomas Vanek feed and beating Legace with a deke to his backhand.

"I don't want to lay this on our goaltenders' stick, but clearly you can't give up five goals on 15 shots," Carolina coach Maurice said.

Brandon Sutter scored 2:07 into the third for the Hurricanes and Eric Staal cut the deficit to two on a power-play goal with three minutes remaining, but that was as far back as the Hurricanes could come. They dropped eight points behind the Bruins for the final Eastern Conference playoff berth.

"We were short on steam, I thought," Maurice said. "Not necessarily effort, even though maybe there were times it looked like it."

Panthers 5, Lightning 2 | HIGHLIGHTS

Scott Clemmensen stopped 29 shots in a rare start and Florida scored three goals in a span of 4:16 late in the first period to get a jump on Tampa Bay.

After Steve Downie got the Lightning on the board at the 6:04 mark, the Panthers stormed back. Nathan Horton tied the score on a power-play goal with 5:48 left in the first, David Booth put them ahead to stay 3:30 later and Cory Stillman capped the burst 46 seconds after that.

"We really played with confidence," Clemmensen said. "When they scored that second goal at the beginning of the third period, for us to come right back at them and score that fourth goal, that shows the resolve and confidence we were playing with tonight. I think in games past, that's been missing a little bit. When we play well and play together we can do good things."

Florida jumped a point ahead of Tampa in the Eastern Conference standings, although each has a long way to go to make the playoffs. The Panthers sit seven points out of the eighth spot and the Lightning are eight back.

Clemmensen, who relieved starter Tomas Vokoun in each of the last two games, made just his second start since Dec. 27 and won for the first time since Dec. 11 against New Jersey.

"He responded well," Panthers coach Pete DeBoer said. "He had a couple great periods for us last night and played well today. We've asked a lot of Tomas Vokoun this year. He hasn't had a bad stretch the entire year up until lately."

Steven Stamkos scored his 43rd goal of the season on a Lightning power play 2:09 into the third period, but the Panthers put the game away when Stephen Weiss responded at 4:03 and Radek Dvorak added insurance with 4:26 remaining.

"It's an 82-game schedule. When 82 games are done, the good teams survive," Tampa Bay coach Rick Tocchet said. "You can't play good for 40 or average for 40. It's an 82-game schedule. To be an NHL hockey player, you've got to play consistent for 82 games."

Oilers 5, Sharks 1 | HIGHLIGHTS

San Jose's lead in the Pacific Division is no more.

Devan Dubnyk made 27 saves for his second straight victory, and Dustin Penner and Shawn Horcoff each had a goal and an assist as the Oilers knocked the Sharks out of first place in the Pacific Division at Rexall Place.

Robert Nilsson, Fernando Pisani and Aaron Johnson also scored for Edmonton.

"This is as close to playoff hockey as we're going to get this year, playing teams that are battling for playoff spots," Oilers forward Sam Gagner said. "We want to treat these situations like playoff games for us, and in the future maybe pull from these experiences."

Ryane Clowe spoiled Dubnyk's shutout bid, scoring with 3:02 left. San Jose, coming off road losses at Vancouver and Calgary, is 0-5-1 in its last six games and is now one point behind the Phoenix Coyotes, who have won nine in a row.

"There's something missing right now," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "We've got to figure out what that is pretty darn quick. Everybody's going to have to pull on the rope so that we can get out of it."

On Friday night, Dubnyk beat Detrout in a shootout for his first victory in 14 NHL appearances. He's 2-8-2 overall in his first NHL season.

"Maybe if I had 20 wins, I might have been a little more desperate to get my first shutout," Dubnyk said. "I was just happy to get another win. Right now I'm just happy to have that winning feeling."

Edmonton drew first blood 11:10 into the gane, when Nilsson poked the puck away from Joe Thornton and beat Evgeni Nabokov on a breakaway for his 10th goal of the season.

The Oilers took a 2-0 lead just over a minute later when the rebound from Ryan Potulny's shot caromed off of a defender to Penner on the doorstep, where he slammed it home for his 100th NHL goal. Edmonton went up 3-0 midway through the second period, when Pisani put a rebound past Nabokov.

The Oilers put the game away with 7 minutes left in the third when Ethan Moreau made a great pass through the crease to Horcoff at the other post to make it 4-0. Johnson scored on a shot from the point during a 4-on-4 situation with five minutes to go.

"It was quite embarrassing to be honest, to lose that way," Nabokov said. "I don't know if this is rock bottom or not, but we are certainly hoping it is. Hopefully we can get back to climbing the hill after this. I think the confidence level is nowhere to be found right now and we have to find it."

Thrashers 3, Flyers 1 | HIGHLIGHTS

Ron Hainsey had a goal and a two assists and Ondrej Pavelec made 44 saves as the Atlanta Thrashers beat the Philadelphia Flyers by a 3-1 score at the Wachovia Center to sweep the weekend home-and-home series. The Thrashers won, 5-2, Saturday in Atlanta and have now won four straight.

Atlanta's Rich Peverley had a goal and an assist as the Thrashers swept the four-game season series against the Flyers and helped them remain in ninth place in the Eastern Conference, while the Flyers fell to sixth. The idle Ottawa Senators moved into fifth place with the exact same record and points as the Flyers.

To read the full Thrashers-Flyers recap, click here.

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

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