Avalanche beat Predators 4-3, keep Nashville from clinching
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Colorado has been a much better team on the road this season, and another win in a hostile arena boosted its thin playoff hopes.
Blake Comeau had a goal and an assist, and the Avalanche used a fast start to edge the Nashville Predators 4-3 on Monday night.
Gabriel Landeskog and Jack Skille also scored in the first, helping Colorado chase Pekka Rinne at 11:40 after giving up three goals on 10 shots faced. Shawn Matthias's goal in the third wound up the game-winner.
The Avalanche played without centers Matt Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon because of knee injuries. But Colorado managed to stay close to Minnesota in the race for the second wild card in the Western Conference, pulling within three points of the idle Wild with six games left.
The Avalanche improved to 22-16-0 on the road heading into a game at St. Louis on Tuesday night.
''We know we've got an uphill climb, but it's a fun thing to battle our way back into the playoffs,'' Comeau said.
Nashville had recorded at least a point in 10 straight home games. It needed a regulation win to clinch its second straight playoff berth, and next up is a visit to Dallas on Tuesday night.
''We knew they were going to play hard,'' Nashville defenseman Roman Josi said. ''I think it was one of those games for them where it's their last chance, so we knew they were going to come out hard. We didn't play our best in the first. We didn't match their effort, and that's why we let in three goals.''
Craig Smith had a goal and an assist for the Predators, and Colton Sissons and Josi scored 24 seconds apart late in the third. Carter Hutton was pulled for an extra attacker with about 90 seconds left, but the Predators couldn't beat goaltender Semyon Varlamov again as Colorado took the win and the season series 3-1 with the final game back in Nashville on April 5.
The Predators had posted the NHL's best record since Feb. 12, with Rinne going 12-1-2 over his last 15 games. They were coming off a 5-1 win over Columbus on Saturday night that included a dominant first period.
Colorado got the strong start this time, and Nashville did not provide much help for Rinne.
Nashville defenseman Mattias Ekholm's turnover led to Comeau's goal on a wrist shot at 6:36. Landeskog scored his 19th at 10:10 when the puck went off his skate, and the goal was upheld on review. Skille chased Rinne with his tip-in off a pass from Cody McLeod. Hutton came in and faced only two shots the rest of the period.
''It was just to stop the time change, change things up and go in a different direction,'' Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said of pulling Rinne.
Smith got Nashville on the board with a wrist shot past Varlamov off a nice cross-ice pass from Filip Forsberg at 17:08 of the first.
The Predators thought they had pulled within 3-2 late in the second period when Miikka Salomaki scored at 17:23. But Colorado coach Patrick Roy challenged, and officials waived off the goal with Nashville offside.
''It was a chance for us to play a strong game and prove that we were not going to give up,'' Roy said.
Matthias made it 4-1 at 12:13 of the third when he scored his 10th off a pass from Mikkel Boedker. Nashville made it interesting when Sissons tipped in a shot by Salomaki at 14:58, and then Josi scored on a wrister at 15:22.
NOTES: Comeau's goal was the 100th of his career. ... Duchene missed his fourth straight game and MacKinnon his third. ... Josi set the Nashville scoring record for defensemen with his 57th point this season, breaking a tie with captain Shea Weber. ... Smith's goal gave him 20 for a third straight season.