Photo by John Russell
Defenseman Dan Hamhuis (right) tries to contain Colorado's Andrew Brunette as a shot comes in on goalie Chris Mason.
The Colorado Avalanche defeated the Nashville Predators 5-3 Monday afternoon at the Gaylord Entertainment Center. Center Jason Arnott scored twice for Nashville and J.P. Dumont and Kimmo Timonen each contributed two assists. Rookie Alexander Radulov added his 11th goal for Nashville while Colorado's rookie forward Wojtek Wolski scored twice to lift his goal total to 13.
The Avalanche scored three times in the middle frame to take a 4-1 lead. Radulov then cut the deficit to two in the second period and Arnott scored his second of the game with 2:25 left in regulation.
Nashville poured on the pressure with goaltender Chris Mason pulled for an extra attacker in the final minute but a turnover led to Wolski's second goal of the game--an empty netter.
"We gave them too big of a lead early and weren't quite ready to play early," forward Steve Sullivan said. "They took advantage of it. When we decided to play, they were able to hold on and keep us off the scoresheet just enough to get the win."
The loss bumps Nashville's record to 26-11-3 for the season. The Predators return to action Friday night in Chicago then come home to face St. Louis on Saturday.
The Avalanche and Preds were tied 1-1 after the first period. Wolski put Colorado in front with his first of the game at 7:22. Paul Kariya had set up Martin Erat for a close chance at one end before the Avalanche turned the puck the other way on a rush that resulted in Wolski's goal. Colorado captain Joe Sakic brought the puck off the left wall in Nashville's zone and centered to Wolski, who was trailing the play in the high slot. His shot beat Nashville goalie Chris Mason for his 13th goal of the season.
Arnott scored his first of the night, a power-play goal, at 19:06 to even the score. Nashville was on its second man advantage and the power-play unit was set up in Colorado's zone. The puck came to defenseman Ryan Suter positioned at the top of the umbrella formation. Suter faked a shot then shuffled the puck to Arnott at the left face-off dot. Arnott's lasered one-timer beat Avs goaltender Peter Budaj to even things up heading into the first intermission.
Colorado then got goals from Milan Hejduk, Andrew Brunette and Ossi Vaananen before the 6:44 mark of the second period to build a 4-1 lead. Radulov answered on the power play at 12:37, poking home a rebound during a scramble in front of Budaj to cut the deficit to two.
"Obviously in the second period they got the three goals," Predators head coach Barry Trotz said. "I thought [when the teams were playing] 5-on-5 they beat us 4 to 1. We beat them in the special teams but I really thought the big turning point to me was the third goal. We broke up a 2-on-1, moved the puck down the ice and we turned it over again and they end up scoring on that. "
Still, Nashville made it a one-goal game late, scoring during a stretch where the home team was swarming around Colorado's net. The scoring play started when Kariya curled behind the Avalanche goal and came out on the right side. Arnott stationed himself on the opposite side of the goal and received a feed from Kariya. Arnott easily banged the puck into the net to make it 4-3 at 17:35. It was Nashville's only goal to come at even-strength. The Predators mounted a strong last-minute flurry but Wolski added the empty netter with 49 seconds left.
"When you get within one there, it's obvious that we feel we have a chance, but it was too late," Mason said. "We let it slip away in the second period. It's tough playing against some of these teams when you're down a couple goals. They did play pretty solid and we got the goal. We just couldn't get control there at the end. They came down there at the end and put it in the net and that was it."
NOTES: Jason Arnott posted his second two-goal game in the last four games and now has five goals in his last six games... Alexander Radulov, who registered a power-play goal, had gone 8 games without a goal. His last tally was Dec. 14 vs. Ottawa... Kimmo Timonen and J.P. Dumont each contributed two assists. Timonen now has points in seven of the last eight games (1g-8a=9pts). For Dumont, it was his seventh multi-point game of the season... Paul Kariya collected an assist and now has points in nine of the last 11 games (6g-9a=15pts)... Nashville's power-play went 2 for 4 after going 0 for 7 combined over the previous two games... The Predators penalty killers were a perfect 5 for 5 and are now 8 for 8 in the last two games... Colorado outscored Nashville 3-1 in the second period. The Predators had outscored opponents 55-22 in the second period prior to Monday's game... Colorado captain Joe Sakic collected three assists to move to No. 10 on the NHL's all-time scoring list.
(on the game)
We gave them too big of a lead early and weren't quite ready to play early. They took advantage of it. When we decided to play, they were able to hold on and keep us off the score sheet just enough to get the win.
I don't think we were desperate enough. Last game, against Boston, we were just desperate. We made things happen for ourselves, and tonight we just didn't make them happen.
(on starting '07 on the wrong foot)
364 more days. Today is just another day. We aren't really looking at the calendar to see what kind of day it is. We thought that this isn't quite in the playoff position right now and we wanted to take advantage of that, and try and take our two points and go to stay ahead of Detroit in the standings, keep ourselves in second position overall in the conference. We weren't able to do that, so we have a big week coming up.
(on what can be taken from the loss)
Kimmo (Timonen) said after the game, we have to be ready. We don't care if it's at 2 o'clock or 7 o'clock or whatever day it is, you have to come ready to play. There's no excuse in having a New Years Day game. The only thing I can say we can take out of it is that we have to come ready to play every night. It's not just when we feel like it.
(on coming within one goal in the third period)
When you get within one there, it's obvious that we feel we have a chance, but it was too late. We let it slip away in the second period. It's tough playing against some of these teams when you're down a couple goals. They did play pretty solid and we got the goal, we just couldn't get control there at the end, they came down there at the end and put it in the net and that was it.
(on being second in the league in save percentage)
I guess that's kind of cool, but if I was second in the league in save percentage, but below .500, I wouldn't be too happy. I'm happier with the way the team's winning and where we are in the standings. That other stuff is just secondary.
(on the game)
When you don't focus 100-percent, it's going to show in your skating, in your preparation and in your mental process. I think they were more focused than we were.
(on the team's play the past few games)
I think we played pretty well against Boston. We have to make sure, if it's a 2o'clock game, 7 o'clock game, it doesn't matter. You have to come to the rink and make sure you are ready to go.
(on opponents taking the Predators as a serious team)
(Nashville) is not an easy place to play. When it comes to your team, our team, we have to make sure we are ready to go. We don't have to think about who we are playing against. Make sure you are ready to go and I'm sure if we are ready to go, we can be anybody in this league.
(on being inconsistent)
We've played some good games lately and some bad games lately. Every game is a different game. It doesn't matter how you played the day before or two days ago, we have to come to the rink and make sure we are ready to go.