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Apr 8, 1:02 AM EDT

Hishon lifts Avalanche to 3-2 win over struggling Predators


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AP Photo/David Zalubowski

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DENVER (AP) -- The Nashville Predators haven't won since clinching a playoff spot more than a week ago.

Not exactly the sort of thing they want to be reminded of right now. It's a tad disconcerting with the postseason right around the corner.

Joey Hishon broke a third-period tie with his first NHL goal, Semyon Varlamov stopped 40 shots and the Colorado Avalanche beat Nashville 3-2 on Tuesday night to send the Predators to their fourth straight loss.

The Predators slipped to 0-2-2 since securing their playoff berth on March 28 at Washington.

"Nobody is really happy right now," Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. "We needed to win a hockey game. It didn't happen.

"We walked out of here without the points tonight. It's difficult. It's hard to stomach right now."

This may help ease the sting a little bit - at least the Predators didn't lose much ground within the division. They still remain a point behind St. Louis in the Central Division race with two games remaining. The Blues lost to Winnipeg 1-0 earlier, and Chicago fell to Minnesota as well.

"It's really frustrating," said Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne, whose team outshot the Avalanche by a 42-23 margin. "We've had a bunch of these games of late where we have more shots and overall play a really good game and the result ends up like this."

Jarome Iginla and Ryan O'Reilly had goals 9 seconds apart in the second period for Colorado, which was eliminated from the playoff chase last week. The Avs captured the Central crown a season ago.

Hishon, playing in his 11th game since being recalled from Lake Erie of the AHL last month, split two Nashville defenders and beat Rinne with a wrist shot at 7:06 of the final period and Varlamov made it stand.

"I had a lot of adrenaline running through my veins so it was good to get that first one," said Hishon, who appeared in three postseason games for Colorado last season. "To get it in a win is even bigger."

The Predators pulled Rinne with about 1:35 remaining, but they couldn't get anything by Varlamov, who turned back defenseman Roman Josi's blast from the blue line just before the final buzzer.

With seconds remaining in the second period, Ryan Ellis hobbled off the ice after being checked into the boards by Jan Hejda, who drew an interference penalty.

Ellis returned to start the third and tied the game with a power-play goal. Just 18 seconds later, it looked as if the Predators had taken a 3-2 lead, but the officials ruled no goal after Paul Gaustad bumped Varlamov.

However, replays seemed to indicate that Varlamov tripped over his own skate, not from contact by Gaustad. Laviolette appealed to the officials, but the call stood.

"It's just a frustrating, disappointing turn of events right there," Laviolette said.

Everything was going Nashville's way until late in the second period when a Predators player seemed to collide with an official and turned over the puck. That led to a goal by Iginla, his 27th of the season.

Moments later, O'Reilly took a pass from Gabriel Landeskog and beat Rinne with a slap shot. The two goals within a nine-second span tied the franchise record. It's the fourth time that's happened, including earlier this season when Cody McLeod and Matt Duchene scored nine seconds apart Feb. 16 against Arizona.

"Both of those last goals I need to make the save," said Rinne, who's given up 11 goals over the last three games. "Two kind of long shots and they went in. It's tough to take."

Calle Jarnkrok gave the Predators a 1-0 lead early in the game when he found an opening in the Colorado end and sent a slap shot just past the glove of Varlamov. It was Jarnkrok's first goal since Feb. 24 against Colorado.

NOTES: Ellis played in his 200th career NHL game. ... Forward Mike Santorelli was a scratch. He missed the game Saturday with an illness. ... Gaustad was back in the lineup after sitting out a game with an upper-body injury. ... Avalanche D Erik Johnson (knee) skated Monday, but coach Patrick Roy said he would be "very surprised" if Johnson played the final two games. ... Iginla now has 61 career points in 57 games against Nashville. Only Pavel Datsyuk (72) has more versus the Predators.

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