Predators continue home dominance over Avs
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — 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.