DENVER (AP) - Shaken hours earlier by the loss of Tomas Fleischmann to a season-ending illness, the Colorado Avalanche were no match for the surging Nashville Predators.
Pekka Rinne stopped 32 shots to lift the Predators to a 5-1 win Thursday night over an Avalanche team suddenly dealing with the absence of Fleischmann, who will miss the rest of the season due to blood clots in his lungs.
``That's tough,' teammate Paul Stastny said. ``I don't think you think much about hockey when you lose a player like that.'
Known for their sound defensive play, the Predators showed they could score a little bit, too, tying a season high with five goals. It was the second straight game in which they scored that many.
Sergei Kostitsyn, Cody Franson, Matt Halischuk, David Legwand and Colin Wilson had goals for the Predators, who have won nine of 11.
Rinne came up big in net all night, but lost his shutout bid when Matt Duchene scored with 3:37 remaining.
``Obviously, every time you get scored on, I'm not happy,' said Rinne, who improved to 8-1 over his last nine starts. ``But it's a big win for us and that is the main thing. ... We've been playing pretty well as of late and we've been building a lot of confidence. Personally, I feel good, and the guys are playing well in front of me.'
It was a difficult day for the Avs as Fleischmann, one of their top scorers, was diagnosed with two blood clots, one in each of his lungs. He complained of shortness of breath following the morning skate.
The team said the 26-year-old left wing will be on blood thinners for several months and will be held out of action. He should be able to resume his career following treatment.
``Tomas was playing very well for us,' Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said. ``He's been a guy that had some production at very important times of the games. He was very clutch for us in many games. ... He'll be missed.'
The turning point of the game might have been when Ryan Stoa nearly scored in the second period by tapping in a rebound, but the referee signaled for play to continue.
Once action was stopped, the call was reviewed for quite some time and overhead shots appeared to show the puck bouncing in and then back out upon hitting the pads of Rinne, who was deep inside the net.
The call on the ice was upheld, keeping the score 2-0. Agitated, Sacco briefly chatted with the officials before waving his arms in disgust.
``We got word from someone who was watching inside the room that it had crossed the line. That's what it looked like to me,' Sacco said. ``You make it 2-1, could be a different game. That's not an excuse for the outcome. That team played well tonight. We got what we deserved.'
Nashville jumped out to a quick lead, scoring twice in the opening period - more than enough offense given the way Rinne was playing.
``We're playing well as a team,' Franson said. ``Everybody is on the same page. We've played well defensively and in doing that it has given us chances to play a little bit of offense. The guys have been playing well and burying the chances they've gotten.'
The loss of Fleischmann is quite a blow to the Avs, who entered the game with the fourth-highest scoring squad in the NHL. General manager Greg Sherman said he would to chat with Sacco before making any decisions on who might fill in.
This was the latest setback in an injury-plagued season for Colorado. The team has had quite a few of its top players miss time with ailments.
``(Fleischmann) has been one of our best forwards,' said Duchene, whose goal gave him 99 career points in 128 games. ``For me, he's been a great linemate. It's tough to lose a guy like that, but we've been a team all year that's pressed forward when we've had injuries. So we're going to move forward and hopefully he has a speedy recovery and gets back as soon as possible.'
NOTES: This was Colorado's first meeting with Nashville this season, leaving Anaheim as the only Western Conference foe the team has yet to face. ... Predators F Marek Svatos missed the game with a lower-body injury. Svatos was a seventh-round pick in 2001 by Colorado. ... Predators F Patric Hornqvist finished with two assists. ... D Kyle Cumiskey was back against Nashville after sitting out with a concussion since Oct. 30. He logged 19 minutes of ice time and had two shots on goal. ... Halischuk scored his second career goal. His other one came against Washington on Nov. 14, 2009.
The Associated Press News Service
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