Predators 4, Avalanche 2

The Nashville Predators know what it’s like to be scrambling and

fighting for any point possible in March. Now they’re starting to

prove they can handle being the team trying to hold onto their own

playoff position.

Sergei Kostitsyn scored at 19:28 of the second period, and the

Nashville Predators held off the Colorado Avalanche 4-2 Thursday

night.

The Predators let Los Angeles, another team fighting for

contention, jump on them in a 5-4 loss Tuesday night. That was

their first home loss in regulation since Jan. 5. With Pekka Rinne

stopping 15 shots and setting a franchise record with his NHL-best

37th win, they improved to 18-3-2 in their last 23 home games.

”We should have some desperation of our own,” Nashville

captain Shea Weber said. ”I think we’re still in striking distance

to win our division, so we need to be desperate to do that and

that’ll give us home ice in the playoffs.”

Colorado came in 10th in the Western Conference but only a point

out of seventh. Avalanche coach Joe Sacco wasn’t happy with what he

called inconsistent effort.

”In a game like this, that had such meaning, I didn’t think we

had enough guys giving a full 60 minutes, and that’s not

acceptable. We got off to a good start, but then they pushed back

and we didn’t have an answer for it. It’s a game we’re disappointed

with.”

Mike Fisher and Brandon Yip each scored a goal as Nashville won

its sixth straight at home over Colorado. Martin Erat added an

empty-netter.

Paul Stastny and Jamie McGinn each had a goal and an assist for

Colorado. The Avalanche snapped a two-game winning streak after

matching a season-high with seven goals in a 7-1 win Tuesday

against Minnesota. Semyon Varlamov had posted shutout wins in his

last two road games.

The Avalanche scored first on McGinn’s wrister just 74 seconds

into the game. Nashville tied it up when Fisher scored at 2:54 with

his 20th goal, ending Varlamov’s road shutout streak. Roman Josi

then had a slap shot through traffic that Yip redirected past

Varlamov at 6:58 against the team that waived him in January.

”Anytime a team let’s you go or trades you, there’s always a

little salt in your mouth,” Yip said. ”It was a big win for the

team and for me as well.”

The period ended on a painful note when Colorado defenseman Erik

Johnson went face first into the boards after missing a check. He

lay on the ice for a couple minutes before slowly getting up, and

teammates had to help him off the ice and to the locker room.

Johnson returned late in the second and finished the game.

Nashville peppered Varlamov in the second and missed plenty of

scoring chances. Colorado had its best chance when Mike Connolly

had a shot at the open net on a rebound off Rinne only to see Ryan

Suter swipe the puck away. Rinne also stopped former teammate,

defenseman Shane O’Brien, from right in front late in the

period.

”It was a very uncomfortable game,” Nashville coach Barry

Trotz said. ”We couldn’t pull away, Varlamov made some good saves

and kept them in. They hung around and hung around. This was one of

those dangerous games where you’re a crossbar away whether they

could tie it up … Peks made a couple big saves when we needed as

usual and just got it done.”

Kostitsyn gave Nashville what wound up as the game-winning goal

when he came on the ice during a changeover, and Matt Halischuk

passed him the puck. Kostitsyn scored on a wrister.

Stastny pulled Colorado within a goal with his own wrister from

the slot at 4:58 of the third. Colorado, coming off a 7-1 win

against Minnesota, nearly tied it, but Cody McLeod’s shot went off

the crossbar and bounced back off Rinne, who smothered the puck at

10:48.

”I didn’t see it, but it was unfortunate that it didn’t go

in,” McLeod said. ”We gave up a late goal there in the second

that kind of set us back there a little bit. We had a great start,

then let it get away from us and it’s hard to play catch-up hockey

in this league. It’s tough to swallow.”

The Avalanche pulled Varlamov late, then Erat sealed the win

with the empty-netter at 19:16 as Nashville outshot Colorado

31-17.

”It’s a sign of the fact that we play well,” Rinne said. ”We

didn’t give them much. If I would be selfish, it’s easier to play

when you face more shots and kind of stay in the game all the

time.”

NOTES: The Predators had their 19th sellout this season and will

tie the franchise record Saturday night with a game against Detroit

already sold out. … Sergei Kostitsyn now has 23 points (12 goals,

11 assists) in his last 29 games. … Nashville did not allow a

power-play goal for a third straight game and improved to 14-9-3

all-time against Colorado on home ice. The Avalanche last won in

Nashville 2-1 on Jan. 6, 2009. … Erat now has goals in

consecutive games and 26 points (8 goals, 18 assists) in his last

29 games. … Paul Gaustad had the assist on Erat’s goal and now

has two assists in three games with Nashville.