Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty
Paul Kariya scored on Peter Budaj to make it a 2-2 game 3:55 into the second period.
The Nashville Predators erased an early two-goal deficit but were unable to match two more tallies in a 4-3 loss to the Colorado Avalanche Tuesday night at Pepsi Center. Steve Sullivan scored for Nashville with 39.2 seconds remaining in regulation to pull the Predators within one. Colorado goaltender Peter Budaj made several of his 34 saves in the last half minute of the game, preventing the visitors from tying the contest and forcing overtime.
Nashville got production from its big guns, with Jason Arnott, Paul Kariya and Sullivan each scoring in the defeat. The loss drops the Predators' record to 36-13-3 and snaps their win streak at four games. It was only Nashville's second loss in the club's last 12 matches.
The Avalanche got off to a fast start and led the game 2-0 by the 10:00 mark of the first. Predators defenseman Dan Hamhuis pinched at the right point and the puck got by him to create a 2-on-1 with Joe Sakic and onetime Predator Andrew Brunette. Sakic fed Brunette, who made a nice play to delay until Nashville goaltender Tomas Vokoun committed, and Brunette put the puck into the vacated net at 5:11.
Four minutes later, Vern Fiddler had his pocket picked by Colorado's Ian Laperriere during a breakout play and the Avalanche quickly countered. Tyler Arnason carried the puck into the offensive zone and fired a shot that was stopped by Vokoun but that remained loose in front of Vokoun's knee. Forward Brett McLean poked at the puck and bumped Vokoun out of the crease, clearing the way for Arnason to shovel the loose puck into the empty net for a 2-0 score at 9:15.
Arnott cut the deficit to one goal late in the first when he scored seconds after a Predators power play expired. With Ken Klee in the box for holding, Nashville set up shop in Colorado's zone and never lost possession of the puck for two full minutes. As Klee was preparing to return to the ice, Arnott fired a shot from the top of the left face-off circle that Budaj saved to the left corner. Sullivan gathered the rebound and sent it right back to Arnott, who stopped the puck to tee it up for a slapshot from a spot 2 feet closer than his previous blast. This time his scoring bid beat Budaj to the far side to make it 2-1 at 17:28.
Vokoun made a fabulous stop on Milan Hejduk a minute later to keep the game close heading into the first intermission. Nashville emerged to tie the match at 2-2 with 3:55 gone in the second period. The line of Martin Erat, David Legwand and Kariya worked the puck around the boards in the Avs' zone and Erat eventually chipped it to Marek Zidlicky at the right point. Kariya was alone in front when the rebound of Zidlicky's shot appeared, and the Predators leading scorer danced around Budaj and outwaited him before lifting the puck over the prone goaltender.
Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty
Predators forward J.P. Dumont posted two assists in the loss to Colorado Tuesday.
The game would remain tied until 16:14 of the second, when Colorado rooke Wojtek Wolski was in the right place to drive home a loose puck. That gave the Avalanche a 3-2 lead that the home side extended to 4-2 46 seconds into the third period. Defenseman Jordan Leopold worked the puck from the right point to Paul Stastny in the right corner. The rookie winger centered to Hejduk who banged home his 16th of the season to give Colorado a two-goal cushion.
Two minutes later, Vokoun made three big stops on Marek Svatos during the Avalanche's second power play of the game and Nashville had a prime chance to cut into the Colorado lead when Klee returned to the penalty box with a double-minor for high-sticking David Legwand. Despite a number of close chances that included shots off the post by Fiddler and Kariya, the Predators could capitalize on the lengthy manpower advantage.
An untimely penalty by Zidlicky at 15:56 hampered Nashville's ability to mount a rally, but Sullivan made it interesting when he beat Budaj after collecting a turnover from Wolski high in the zone. The Predators immediately took a timeout after Sullivan's goal made it 4-3 at 19:20 and nearly got the tying goal in the final seconds. Budaj made a save on a sharp shot by Kariya, Sullivan hit the side of the net with a chance and Kariya and J.P. Dumont were unable to get their sticks on a juicy rebound of a Kimmo Timonen shot as the clock dwindled to zero.
Next the Predators head to Phoenix for an 8:00 p.m. CT contest Thursday night at Jobing.com Arena.
NOTES: Steve Sullivan extended his point streak to eight games with a goal and an assist Tuesday. He has collected 11 points (4g-7a) during the streak... Nashville finished January with a 10-3-0 record. Two of the three losses came at the hands of Colorado... Scottie Upshall and Marek Zidlicky both returned to the Predators lineup Tuesday after missing time. Upshall logged 8:42 of ice time and registered two shots after sitting out 35 games with a groin injury. Zidlicky posted an assist in 17:43 of ice time after missing two games with the flu... Paul Kariya scored his 17th goal of the season and registered a game-high 9 shots. Nashville lost for the first time this season when he scores a goal (15-1-0)... David Legwand, Jason Arnott and Martin Erat each extended his point streak to four games... The Predators outshot the Avalanche 37-35... Kevin Klein, Darcy Hordichuk and Jerred Smithson were scratched for Nashville.