- Associated Press - Friday, January 20, 2017

CALGARY, Alberta (AP) - A four-goal lead in the third period nearly wasn’t enough for the Nashville Predators.

Ryan Ellis had his first career two-goal game and the Predators held off a late rally to beat the Calgary Flames 4-3 on Thursday night.

“A little scary down the stretch there,” Ellis said, “but we earned that one.”

James Neal scored his team-leading 15th goal, and Filip Forsberg added the other score for Nashville, which moved past idle Los Angeles into the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference.

Kris Versteeg, Michael Frolik and Sean Monahan all scored late in the third period for the Flames.

Down 4-0, Versteeg’s power-play goal at 16:17 broke the shutout. Frolik scored 17 seconds later to suddenly cut the lead to two. And, with Chad Johnson pulled for an extra skater, Monahan jammed in his 14th goal with 48 seconds left.

But the Flames never did get a decent chance to make it all the way back.

“They got one on the power play and it just unraveled from there,” Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. “That’s all you need sometimes, a little momentum. They end up getting a second one, the goalie is pulled, and anything can happen.”

Rookie Juuse Saros made 32 saves for the win, while Johnson turned aside 17 shots in defeat to fall to 16-11-1.

“Tonight, we worked for about 57 minutes and still got rewarded for it, so it’s a good sign for our team,” Ellis said.

Leading 1-0 halfway through the second period, Ellis was set up neatly by Harry Zolnierczyk on a 2-on-1. Drawing Dennis Wideman over to him, Zolnierzyk’s pass sprung Ellis in alone and he beat Johnson.

Ellis scored his second at 18:58 on a power play to give the Predators a three-goal advantage. With lots of time and no one around him, he walked in from the blue line and with Viktor Arvidsson providing a screen, blasted a slap shot past Johnson.

Calgary is now just two points up on the Predators in the Western Conference standings - holding onto the first wild-card spot. Nashville also holds three games in hand.

Saros, a 21-year-old Finn, has been excellent in a backup role behind countryman Pekka Rinne. He’s 5-3-1 in nine starts.

Two of his better saves came in the first period, when Calgary fell behind 1-0 despite outshooting Nashville 14-9. Monahan was stopped twice from the slot on a 49-second, two-man advantage late in the period - once on a snap shot from 20 feet out, the other on a deflection.

“I felt pretty good the whole game,” Saros said. “The D let me see the pucks well and collect all the rebounds, so that was good.”

Nashville opened the scoring at 4:59 as Calgary yielded the first goal for the sixth game in a row. Mike Fisher’s shot was stopped, but the rebound into the slot was buried by Neal for his first goal since Dec. 10.

“It’s a team game, so when you get scored on, you have to bounce back,” Monahan said. “Each line has to do something to get some momentum. Right now, we’re not doing that and we’ve got to find a way to not be so fragile.”

NOTES: The Predators improve to 14-0-4 when scoring the first goal. … Flames C Sam Bennett was a healthy scratch for Calgary. … Flames LW Micheal Ferland (lower body) returned after missing three games. … Referee Tom Kowal was honored before the game for working his 1,000th NHL game. … Fisher recorded his 300th assist.

UP NEXT

Predators: at Edmonton on Friday night.

Flames: Home vs. Edmonton on Saturday night.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide