NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Colin Wilson scored the tiebreaking goal on a tic-tac-toe play with 3:27 left, leading Nashville to a 3-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Saturday night for the Predators’ fifth straight win.
Craig Smith added an insurance goal when he swatted a shot between Cory Schneider’s legs with 2:21 left.
Matt Cullen gave Nashville a 1-0 lead in the first period before Steve Bernier’s power-play goal late in the second period tied it up for New Jersey.
Pekka Rinne stopped 21 shots for the Predators, who lead the NHL with 82 points and improved to 24-3-1 at home. Rinne, 14-1-1 in his last 16 games, leads the NHL with 33 wins.
The Devils lost their fourth straight.
Cullen skated from behind the net to the front of the crease where he fired a wrist shot that beat Schneider low to his stick side to give Nashville a 1-0 lead at 8:49 of the first period. It was Cullen’s fifth goal of the season.
The Predators overwhelmed the Devils by outshooting them 21-3 in the first period as defenseman Adam Larsson took penalties for holding and tripping. Nashville’s Colin Wilson took six shots in the first 20 minutes.
The Predators’ lead could have been bigger, but Schneider repeatedly bailed out the Devils with difficult saves on scoring chances in the low slot.
New Jersey had a chance to tie it during a second-period power play, but Rinne slid across the crease to make a left leg pad save on Mike Cammalleri’s shot from the bottom of the faceoff circle.
The Devils enjoyed better luck on their next power play when Bernier backhanded a rebound past Rinne stickside to tie the score with 2:23 left in the second period. Eric Gelinas’ slap shot bounced off the end board to Bernier in front of the crease, where he poked it home for his 10th goal of the season.
Nashville improved to 15-5-1 against Eastern Conference opponents, including 11-1-0 at home.
The Devils, who lost 3-1 at Chicago on Friday, fell to 3-5-3 in the second game of back-to-backs.
New Jersey entered Saturday’s games 12 points out of the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot. The Devils have missed the playoffs three of the past four years.
Notes: Devils RW Jaromir Jagr, 42, played in his 1,525th career game, which ranks 13th in NHL history — one ahead of Hall of Famer Brendan Shanahan. … Nashville D Mattias Ekholm, who suffered an upper-body injury in last Sunday’s shootout win at Florida, returned to the lineup. … New Jersey RW Jordin Tootoo’s book, “All The Way: My Life On Ice,” is listed No. 1 in Amazon’s best sellers for hockey biographies. It was released in October. Tootoo, a fan favorite during his time in Nashville, played his first eight NHL seasons with the Predators. … Predators D Ryan Ellis skated with the team for the first time since suffering a lower-body injury in an overtime win over Dallas on Jan. 8.
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