Predators keep pace in Central race with 3-1 win over Kings
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Colton Sissons had scored one point in his last 16 games for the Nashville Predators before he picked up a goal and an assist in a 2:27 span against the Kings.
The Predators expect they'll need secondary scoring to make a long run in the Stanley Cup playoffs, and Sissons is just one complementary player providing a boost down the stretch.
Viktor Arvidsson and Craig Smith also scored, Pekka Rinne made 25 saves and Nashville kept pace in the Central Division race with a 3-1 victory over Los Angeles on Thursday night.
Led by Sissons' first multipoint game since Jan. 7, the Predators snapped a two-game skid with a rejuvenating win over the last-place Kings. Nashville has taken points at Staples Center in nine consecutive visits, and the Kings never looked likely to end that streak.
"It's probably the best game we've played in recent weeks," Sissons said. "It feels good to put a complete effort in from start to finish and to just have everybody step up and play their best game."
Heading toward a showdown Saturday with Western Conference-leading San Jose, the Predators responded well after falling behind early in a loss at 14th-place Anaheim on Tuesday night to open this three-game California road trip. They started solidly, weathered a rough patch and took control during a two-goal second period before finishing strong.
"We've taken ownership in our game from what happened in Anaheim," Smith said. "That's what this team does."
Nashville (40-27-5) remained one point behind Central-leading Winnipeg (41-25-4). The defending division champion Predators also increased their lead over third-place St. Louis and Dallas to six points, although the Jets, Blues and Stars all have two games in hand on Nashville.
Austin Wagner scored and Jonathan Quick stopped 31 shots as Los Angeles opened a five-game homestand by losing for the 14th time in 16 games.
"We didn't work hard enough, obviously," Wagner said. "That first period wasn't good enough."
Los Angeles had three days off following a victory at Anaheim, but failed in its attempt to win back-to-back games for the first time since Feb. 5-7. The Kings are guaranteed to finish with their worst point total in a full season since the 2008-09 campaign.
"I didn't think we had a great start in the game, which we control," Kings coach Willie Desjardins said. "We had a couple of opportunities in the first period (on) power plays that we just didn't generate enough. I don't think we were hungry enough in the first. I thought the second (period) we came with more energy. I thought the third (period) we were trying to play with energy, but they're a pretty good team and they're hard to handle."
Arvidsson put the Predators ahead late in the first period with his 29th goal moments after a stunning save on the other end by Rinne, who has a long history of jaw-dropping play against Southern California's NHL teams.
Wagner tied it early in the second with the 10th goal of his promising rookie season during his first game back from a four-game injury absence. Rookie defenseman Matt Roy picked up his first NHL point on the play.
Smith put the Predators back ahead late in the second when he batted Quick's generous rebound of Sissons' shot out of midair for his 19th goal. Sissons then scored an unassisted goal after intercepting Alec Martinez's pass and beating Quick with a stoppable shot.
Quick has played some of his worst hockey when he faces the Predators, posting the worst save percentage and goals-against average of the Conn Smythe Trophy winner's long career against any opponent.
NOTES: Kyle Turris was a healthy scratch for Nashville. The veteran had played in 16 consecutive games since returning from injury, but has only one goal and three assists during that stretch. "I made a lineup decision," Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. ... Kings LW Jonny Brodzinski was scratched with Wagner's return to the lineup. D Kurtis MacDermid also was scratched in favor of D Sean Walker. ... Nashville avoided its first three-game losing streak since Feb. 9-12. ... Nashville has won 40 games for the fifth consecutive season.
Predators: At the San Jose Sharks on Saturday.
Kings: Host the Florida Panthers on Saturday.