NASHVILLE – Fans started tossing caps onto the ice, celebrating what they thought was a hat trick by Nashville captain Jason Arnott. Patric Hornqvist actually had tipped in two of those goals, which Arnott knew.
“I was laughing on the bench,” Arnott said. “I knew he tipped it so nothing you can do. But it’s good spirits to get our crowd into it. They haven’t had much to cheer about of late at home. It’s nice to see they’re still behind us and still love it.”
Hornqvist finished with two power-play goals and an assist to help the Predators beat the Colorado Avalanche 5-3 on Thursday night. Hornqvist understood the confusion because he said he knows it can be so hard to see if he tipped the puck or not.
“I touched those two, and I’m happy for the team because we got a huge win,” Hornqvist said.
The Predators came into the game seventh in the Western Conference, only four points behind sixth-place Colorado, and they now have earned five of six points possible with a game remaining in this last four-game homestand before the Olympic break.
Arnott had a goal and three assists, and Steve Sullivan had a power-play goal and an assist. Joel Ward also had a goal, and Shea Weber added two assists as Nashville won the season series with Colorado 3-1-0, which could be a tiebreaker at season’s end.
“We’re looking beyond them,” Sullivan said. “We’re looking to teams ahead of them. Those are the teams we’re trying to catch. They’re ahead of us. Hopefully before April 5th, they’ll be behind us by a lot.”
Cody McLeod, Matt Duchene and Justin Mercier scored for Colorado, which has lost four of five coming off a season-best six-game winning streak.
Colorado had killed 24 straight penalties coming in and stretched that to 25 before Nashville scored three goals on the next five man advantages.
McLeod put Colorado up 1-0 at 16:39 of the first period after Nashville failed to keep the puck in its zone. Chris Stewart corralled the puck and brought it up the right side before passing cross-ice to McLeod, who put a snap shot past Pekka Rinne.
The Predators were coming off the longest shootout in franchise history, going 10 rounds with 20 shooters in a 1-0 loss Tuesday night to Phoenix. Nashville outshot the Avalanche 14-8 in the first and kept it up in the second but kept having trouble finding the net.
Not even 72 seconds of a 5-on-3 helped with fans screaming for the Predators to shoot. Kyle Quincey came out of the penalty box, then Arnott fired a slap shot from the blue line at the right half boards that Hornqvist redirected to tie it at 1 at 6:46 of the second.
Trotz called that a timely goal for a team that had been “stumbling and bumbling” on the 5-on-3.
“It wasn’t pretty but we got it done,” Trotz said.
That opened the scoring up. Only 63 seconds later, Ward backhanded the rebound of Jerred Smithson’s shot past Craig Anderson for a 2-1 lead.
“That was a key moment in the game when we took the 5-on-3 penalty,” Colorado coach Joe Sacco said. “We did a good job killing that, then they score as soon as the guy gets out of the box.”
Colorado took a timeout at 11:09 of the second, and Duchene tied it at 2 with his 18th of the season from the slot on a power play at 13:59.
Again, Nashville answered, this time even more quickly.
Arnott scored from in front 23 seconds later to put the Predators ahead to stay. Hornqvist tipped in Arnott’s slap shot at 19:19 to pad the lead. Arnott originally had been awarded the Predators’ first goal, and fans started celebrating before the announcement that Hornqvist had scored his team-leading 23rd goal of the season.
Sullivan added his 11th with a slap shot from the right dot at 10:31 of the third. Mercier scored his first this season on a rush from in front at 18:42.
“We were sloppy in a lot of areas,” Colorado defenceman Scott Hannan said.
NOTES: Linesman Steve Barton left the game midway through the first period after tangling feet with Nashville defenceman Alexander Sulzer, which sent Barton crashing backward onto the ice. … Hornqvist, a Swedish Olympian, also leads Nashville with eight power-play goals. … Nashville defenceman Cody Franson was a scratch. He will miss a couple weeks after breaking a rib Tuesday night in a shootout loss to Phoenix.