Predators 2, Thrashers 1

A week ago, the Atlanta Thrashers looked like a surprise playoff
contender even without Ilya Kovalchuk.

Not anymore.

Colin Wilson scored off an Atlanta miscue and Dan Ellis turned
aside 30 shots, leading the Nashville Predators to a 2-1 victory
over the slumping Thrashers on Tuesday night.

Ryan Suter scored Nashville’s first goal, and Wilson took
advantage of a hideous turnover by Mark Popovic to make it 2-0
before the first period was done.

Ellis made the lead stand up. The Thrashers were held to a
second-period goal by Nik Antropov and took their third straight
loss, further dampening playoff hopes that looked so much better
just a week ago. Atlanta, which won its first two after the Olympic
break to move into the final playoff spot in the East, is now four
points behind Boston.

“We came off the Olympic break pretty good and were pretty
happy with our performances,” said Chris Thorburn, whose apparent
tying goal was disallowed after officials ruled he interfered with
Ellis in the crease. “But these last three games …”

Nashville snapped a two-game losing streak and strengthened its
hold on the seventh seed in the Western Conference.

“In the backstretch, it’s like playoff hockey,” Wilson
said.

The Predators went ahead at 4:48 of the first when Suter scored
a power-play goal on a screened shot from the point. With Colby
Armstrong off for interference, Martin Erat clogged up things in
front of the net, and it appeared that goalie Johan Hedberg never
saw the puck.

Nashville extended its lead later in the period on Popovic’s
amateurish mistake. Skating out of his zone, the defenseman fanned
on a routine pass, then whiffed again as he hurriedly tried to
clear it. Wilson scooped it up, went in alone on Hedberg and scored
his fourth goal of the season at 18:38.

“I have pretty good speed, and that made (Hedberg) pull back a
little,” Wilson said.

Thrashers coach John Anderson refused to blame Popovic.

“It was just a bad bounce,” the coach said. “A little bump in
the ice and he missed the puck and it ends up in the net.”

The Thrashers sliced into the deficit in the opening minute of
the second period. Johnny Oduya flipped the puck toward the net,
and Antropov scored his 17th goal by redirecting it past Ellis.

Atlanta appeared to have scored the tying goal before the period
was over. Evgeny Artyukhin worked the puck in front and Thorburn
muscled it past Ellis. But the Atlanta forward was clearly inside
the crease, tangled up with the goalie, and the score was quickly
waved off by the officials.

“Quite frankly, I don’t know the rule anymore,” Anderson said.
“How many goals like that have we seen go against us? I don’t
understand what the ruling was. Was it goaltender interference? Why
don’t we have a penalty call?

“It was a game-changing call. I didn’t like it.”

That was Atlanta’s last gasp. Ellis turned aside everything
else, including a couple of big saves after the Thrashers pulled
Hedberg in the final minute for an extra skater.

“He shut the door,” Nashville’s Jason Arnott said. “He made
saves that could have been goals.”

The Thrashers, who traded away Kovalchuk in early February but
still thought they had a shot at slipping into the playoffs, know
they have to turn things around – quickly.

“We’re not out of it,” Thorburn said. “We’ve still got some
games left, but we’ve got to start putting some wins together
instead of losses.”

NOTES: Thrashers LW Evander Kane will be out three weeks with a
fractured left foot. D Christoph Schubert will be out three-to-five
weeks with a pulled muscle in his hip. … Hedberg also made 30
saves, including a stop on a short-handed breakaway by Erat. …
Nashville swept the season series with the Thrashers, 2-0.