DENVER (AP)Matt Duchene scored the lone goal of the shootout and David Rittich stopped all three attempts as the Nashville Predators rallied from a two-goal deficit to beat the Colorado Avalanche 5-4 on Thursday night.
Duchene also scored in regulation, along with Ryan Johansen, Roman Josi and Mattias Ekholm to help the Predators move into the first wild-card spot with a game remaining.
”We took care of our business,” Ekholm said. ”That was a gritty road win for us.”
Rittich stopped 42 shots as he stepped in for injured goaltender Juuse Saros. Rittich came up big in the shootout, thwarting Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Nazem Kadri.
”David, great game for him,” Ekholm said. ”I think he was our best player.”
Cale Makar, Logan O’Connor, Artturi Lehkonen and J.T. Compher scored for Colorado, the top seed in the Western Conference. By gaining a point, the Avalanche now have 119 for the season and broke the franchise mark (118) held by the 2000-01 team that went on to win the Stanley Cup.
Colorado’s shootout loss allowed the Florida Panthers to secure the Presidents’ Trophy and home-ice advantage throughout their playoff run.
Darcy Kuemper made 33 saves for the Avalanche, who’ve gone 1-4-1 down the stretch.
”I had no problems with our game through two periods. None. Zero,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said. ”I would say the difference in the hockey game, to be fair, was Kuemps had an off night.”
The Avalanche are trying to get back on track with the postseason looming. They won nine straight before their recent slump.
”The confidence in the group is very high and we know what we’re capable of,” Makar said. ”It’s just putting all those pieces together.”
Trailing by as many as two goals, Ekholm tied it up at 4-apiece early in the third period. It set the stage for Duchene, who was drafted third overall by Colorado in 2009 and scored 178 goals over nine seasons with the Avalanche.
The showdown within the game was between Makar and Josi. They’re the leading candidates for the Norris Trophy, which goes to the league’s top defenseman. Makar leads all defensemen with 28 goals. Josi had a nifty, coast-to-coast goal – he actually ended up inside the net as well – and an assist to increase his lead to 95 points among defensemen.
O’Connor gave the Avalanche a 3-1 in the first period on a quirky goal. He lined the puck into Josi and thePredators looked all around to locate it. The puck dropped to the ice and O’Connor put it in with Rittich looking the other way.
”It’s crazy,” Ekholm said of the play. ”Me and Roman were talking about it. He feels it go off his stick and he looks up and he gets eight other guys on the ice to look up as well, but one guy doesn’t.
”We saw it on the bench, but it was too late to yell or scream at that point. So sometimes that happens and unlucky for us, but good on us to battle back.”
INJURY UPDATES, AVALANCHE
Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog was on the ice Thursday morning wearing a red, noncontact jersey as he recovers from knee surgery. He’s on pace to join the team in Game 1 of the playoffs. … Rantanen was back after missing four games with an illness.
INJURY UPDATES, PREDATORS
Nashville D Jeremy Lauzon (lower body) skated Thursday morning, on his 25th birthday. ”He’s trending in the direction to be playable real soon,” Predators coach John Hynes said. … Hynes said there’s no timetable for Saros’ return after he suffered a left leg injury Tuesday. … D Mark Borowiecki took a puck off his left leg in the third period and gingerly made his way to the bench.
With his goal in the first period, Makar became the fifth defenseman in the last 30 years to score 28 goals in a season, according to NHL Stats. He joined the company of Brent Burns (29 in `16-17), Mike Green (31, ’08-09), Al MacInnis (28, `93-94) and Kevin Hatcher (34 in ’92-93).
Predators: At Arizona on Friday.
Avalanche: At Minnesota on Friday. The Avalanche are 8-1-1 in the second game of a back-to-back.
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