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Momentum shifts propel Kings by Preds

by Staff Writer / Nashville Predators

Dan Hamhuis checks George Parros
Photo by Noah Graham/L.A. Kings
Predators defenseman Dan Hamhuis administers a textbook hip-check to Kings forward George Parros, separating him from the puck on a rush.
The Nashville Predators found themselves on the wrong end of a seesaw contest Saturday night, falling 6-4 to the Los Angeles Kings at the STAPLES Center. Nashville took a 2-0 lead, fell behind 3-2, then went ahead 4-3 before giving up a trio of L.A. goals in a 1:47 span during the third period. Paul Kariya scored twice for the Predators in the team's second loss in as many nights. Mike Sillinger and Greg Johnson also lit the lamp for Nashville, which will carry a record of 42-21-8 to Phoenix Tuesday night for the final stop on a four-game road trip.

The Predators, who lost 6-3 in Anaheim on Friday despite a strong start, came out again with a solid first period in Los Angeles. Mike Sillinger went to one knee to drive Scottie Upshall's pass into a virtually empty net 5:32 into the contest as Nashville converted on its first power play opportunity. The newly formed line of Scott Nichol, Steve Sullivan and Scott Hartnell was highly effective in the moments that followed, creating a number of chances. The physical play began to escalate when Kings agitator Sean Avery crunched Nashville defenseman Marek Zidlicky into the boards midway through the period, drawing his second penalty in the first 11:08 of play and knocking Zidlicky out for the remainder of the game. Later, Nashville forward Darcy Hordichuk was bumped to the ice by L.A.'s George Parros, who attempted to goad the Predators tough guy into a penalty. Hordichuk showed discipline by skating toward his bench, and when Parros pursued him, defenseman Brendan Witt stepped in and powered Parros onto the rail of his own bench. Both Witt and Parros received minors for roughing, foreshadowing events that would spark the Kings in the second period.

But first, the Predators pushed the lead to 2-0 just 32 seconds into the middle frame. Sillinger won a face-off in his own zone and Tootoo cleared the puck up the right side. As the Kings defensemen backpedaled and regrouped, Sillinger swooped in and intercepted an outlet pass at the L.A. blue line. He drove wide to the right and faked a slapshot, then moved around the sliding defender to center a pass to Kariya for a simple redirection into the vacated net.

Los Angeles responded with a power-play tally at 2:45, when Witt stepped up to make a hit on Mark Parrish but allowed Eric Belanger to sneak behind the defense. Parrish threaded a pass to Belanger before taking Witt's check, and Belanger put a close shot through the five hole of Nashville goalie Tomas Vokoun to cut the lead to 2-1. Vokoun bounced back with a sharp save on Jeremy Roenick a minute later, then Hordichuk and Parros renewed acquaintances in a scuffle at the 5:08 mark that earned each a roughing call plus an extra 10-minute misconduct for Hordichuk. In addition, the Predators were tagged for too many men on the ice. The exchange energized the L.A. crowd, and the Kings began to feed off the turning momentum. Nashville's trips to the penalty box--eight of them in the second period alone--set the table for two more Kings power-play goals. Parrish banged in a one-timer off the goal post to tie the game at 5:32, then Dustin Brown tracked down a pinballing puck in the crease and put it by Vokoun at 9:30 to give Los Angeles its first lead of the game, 3-2.

A resilient Preds club dug in, though, stemming the tide with Kariya's second goal of the night at 10:13. His redirection of Shea Weber's backhander from the blue line knotted the game at 3-3, then Greg Johnson cleaned up a Martin Erat and Adam Hall two-on-one by firing the loose rebound over prone Kings goaltender Mathieu Garon at 15:52. Scoring three times on only four second-period shots, Nashville carried the one-goal lead into the second intermission.

The teams traded power plays to no avail during the first half of the third--Nashville getting its
fourth opportunity with the man advantage, L.A. getting its ninth. Vokoun made notable saves on a Mattias Norstrom blast from the top of the left circle at 8:10 and a shot by Belanger from the slot with just under 12 minutes gone. Matching slashing penalties against Witt and Belanger at 11:58 put the teams at four players aside, and the Kings--namely Craig Conroy and Alexander Frolov--made the most of the open ice.

First, a drop pass by Conroy on the right side of the Nashville zone set up Frolov for a screen shot that beat Vokoun high to the far side and tied the score at 12:19. A minute and six seconds later, the duo stunned the Predators with a repeat performance, though this time Conroy's drop was never fully controlled by Frolov. Instead, Frolov, who was playing in his first game since suffering a shoulder injury at the Winter Olympics, pursued the runaway puck into the slot and gave it a final shuffleboard-style poke that sent it past Vokoun to put L.A. ahead 5-4 at 13:25.

Nashville made a strong bid to counter when Kariya centered to Sillinger for a redirected shot right on net at 13:55. Garon made the save, though, and Avery sealed the win for the Kings seconds later with a low-percentage follow-up shot that became the sixth puck to get past Vokoun in the game. Nashville was unable to muster a response in the remaining minutes, with a hooking penalty at 18:43 dampening any thoughts of a late comeback.

Notes: Nashville wins the season series with L.A. 2-1-1... The Predators are 8-2-2 over their last 12 games... The loss was Nashville's first this season when leading after two periods. The Predators' record when carrying a lead into the third stands at 26-1-4... Steve Sullivan extended his consecutive points streak to 10 games with an assist vs. Los Angeles. He has 17 points (5g-12a) in that span... Mike Sillinger posted a goal and two assists for his second multi-point game as a Predator. He has nine points (1g-8a) in his last six games... Paul Kariya scored two goals for his team-high 22nd multi-point performance of the season. He has 18 points (9g-9a) over his last 15 games... Greg Johnson scored his 10th goal of the season. He has two goals in his last five games... Adam Hall assisted on Johnson's goal for his 14th helper of the season. That matches his career high in assists (set in 2003-04) and is one point short of his career high in points (28, set in 2002-03)... Scottie Upshall, Shea Weber, and Martin Erat each registered an assist Saturday... Weber logged a career-high 22:04 of ice time and finished with a +2 rating... David Legwand and Vern Fiddler were scratches for Nashville... Attendance at the STAPLES Center was 18,118.

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