ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) - The Nashville Predators don't need to be reminded of how important home-ice advantage is in the playoffs. Last year was a perfect example, with Vancouver ousting them in the second round.
Now that they find themselves with a great chance to get the first two postseason games at home, they don't want to let it slip by them.
Patric Hornqvist, Mike Fisher and David Legwand scored third-period goals, and the Predators completed a four-game season series sweep of the Anaheim Ducks with a 3-1 victory Sunday night.
Anders Lindback made 30 saves in his eighth start this season for Nashville while Pekka Rinne got the night off. The Predators tied idle Detroit for fourth place in the Western Conference standings and home-ice advantage in the opening round of the playoffs with 10 games left for both teams.
``It was a big, big two points for us,' Hornqvist said. ``We had to climb in the standings and try to catch Detroit and St. Louis. You never know what can happen, and we want to win every game. Anders was big for us tonight. The first two periods, he really kept us in it, and then in the third he won the game for us. He was just outstanding.'
Lindback, the tallest goalie in the NHL at 6-foot-6, had lost his previous five starts since Nov. 28, when he faced only 18 shots in a 2-1 win at Edmonton.
``It's always nice to get the win,' Lindback said. ``I want to prove to the guys and the coaches that I can play, and this was great for my confidence. I want to earn a chance to play more games. Peck's been unbelievable this season and he's probably the best goalie in the league, I think. It's a privilege to watch him and learn from him.'
The Predators posted their sixth straight regular-season win over Anaheim, following a 4-2 loss Saturday night at Los Angeles. They eliminated the Ducks in six games in the opening round of last year's playoffs - the first time the franchise ever won a postseason series.
This was the first season in which Anaheim failed to beat the Predators since the NHL expanded to Nashville in 1988-89. The Ducks were 0 for 9 on the power play in the four meetings, making them 4 for 36 against the Predators over the past three seasons.
``They're a team that's built for the playoffs,' Anaheim's Bobby Ryan said. ``They play a full 60 minutes, they've got a great back end, and they've got three lines that can hurt you. That top line with (Martin) Erat, Fisher and (Andrei) Kostitsyn moves the puck well and they're highly effective throughout the ice. So they're a team that can certainly make some noise in the playoffs. They did last year.'
Rookie forward Devante Smith-Pelly scored his first career short-handed goal for the Ducks, whose 3-7-1 slide has put them out of playoff contention. Jonas Hiller made 24 saves in his 32nd consecutive start, extending his franchise record.
``I thought the first two periods, we were a pretty dominating team,' Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau said. ``But you could see it behind the bench, that when you don't score when you have all those opportunities, the tide is liable to turn. But it wasn't for lack of opportunities or chances of effort. We had a tremendous effort tonight and came up short.'
The Predators tied it when Legwand carried the puck over the blue line and found Hornqvist streaking toward the net past defenseman Francois Beauchemin. Hornqvist converted the perfect tape-to-tape pass, beating Hiller high to the stick side for his 23rd goal.
``Last night, we didn't play well, made some bad decisions in the third period, took too many chances and lost the game,' Hornqvist said. ``Tonight, we stuck to the game plan and came out flying in the third. We got chances on the first shift, and when we got that goal to make it 1-1, I thought it was our hockey game.'
Fisher put Nashville ahead for good with 9:33 remaining, converting a rebound of Ryan Suter's point-blank shot for his 23rd of the season after the puck bounced off Hiller, then off defenseman Sheldon Brookbank and into the crease. Erat got his 300th NHL assist on the play.
``They've got as much balance through four lines as anybody in the league,' Boudreau said. ``They're fast, they work hard, they've got great goaltending and they've got two studs on defense.'
Legwand scored a power-play goal into an empty net with 16.5 seconds left after a hooking penalty against Ryan.
Smith-Pelly, who didn't get credit for his first NHL goal until an official scorer's change some 45 minutes after the Ducks' 4-2 home loss to the Predators on Nov. 9, opened the scoring at 7:32 of the first period with his fifth of the season.
Notes: Hiller is 3-8-0 lifetime against Nashville despite a 2.80 goals-against average. ... Anaheim D Toni Lydman was scratched because of an upper-body injury, the fourth game he's missed this season. Beauchemin and defense partner Cam Fowler are the only Ducks defenseman to have played in all 73 games. ... Nashville's Barry Trotz needs three wins to join Al Arbour, Lindy Ruff, Billy Reay and Toe Blake as the only coaches with at least 500 in the regular season. All of Trotz's victories have come with the Predators - who have had only one coach throughout their 13 seasons in the NHL. ... Erat, who scored the winner against the Ducks on a penalty shot the last time the Predators played in Anaheim on Nov. 9, has at least one goal against every NHL team except Boston and Montreal. ... The Predators are 34-8-4 since their last back-to-back regulation losses, Dec. 23-26 against Dallas and Detroit. ... Nashville's next road win will give the Predators at least 20 for the third straight season. They have five chances to do it, starting with Thursday night's game at Pittsburgh.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved