NASHVILLE -- Sometimes, Colorado Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said, it's nice to win a game when your team does not play well. That was the case on Tuesday when Colorado was outshot 13-1 until the final minute of first period and trailed by two goals.
The Avalanche never led in regulation but, with a good bit of help from captain Gabriel Landeskog, they rallied for a 5-4 shootout win against the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena.
Roy contrasted the game with the Avalanche's effort in their most recent game, a 2-0 loss to the Boston Bruins on Friday that was Boston’s 12th straight win, the longest winning streak in the NHL this season.
"I thought we deserved better against the Bruins and tonight it was the opposite," Roy said. "We found a way to win that game, which the players certainly deserve a lot of credit for it."
The win snapped a three-game skid for Colorado (0-2-1). The Avalanche (45-21-6) began the night three points behind the Chicago Blackhawks for second place in the Central Division. Colorado has played one fewer game than Chicago, which defeated the Dallas Stars 4-2 on Tuesday.
Landeskog scored two goals and added the shootout winner. He beat Predators goalie Pekka Rinne in the third round with a quick wrist shot. Ryan O'Reilly tied it for Colorado in the second round at 1-1 with a wrist shot to the blocker side.
Nashville rookie Calle Jarnkrok, in his third NHL game, used a slick backhander to beat Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov in the first round. Varlamov stopped Ryan Ellis and Roman Josi in the next two rounds.
Landeskog said the Avalanche wanted to chip away at Nashville's early 2-0 lead. As Colorado pursues Chicago for home-ice advantage in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Landeskog said this game will serve the Avalanche well.
"Right now we're trying not to look at the standings," he said. "It's hard not to sometimes, but I think right now we're trying to win our games and create our good habits for the playoffs and I think we did that tonight."
The Avalanche trailed by 2-0 early and then by 3-2 and 4-3 deficits late in the third period. Forty-four seconds after Nashville's Matt Cullen scored his second goal of the game to put his team up 4-3 with 4:43 left in regulation, Colorado defenseman Nick Holden tied it. Holden skated down the left side off the rush and scored with a low wrist shot to the stick side. Holden has scored three of his nine goals this season at Bridgestone Arena.
However, he almost went from hero to goat; he received a high-sticking penalty with 2:11 left in regulation.
"I sat in the box with my eyes closed for a little bit," Holden said. "Obviously, to tie it up and take kind of an unlucky penalty like that, yeah, I was worried."
The Avalanche killed the penalty. Even with the night Landeskog enjoyed, Varlamov (29 saves) might have been their best player. Varlamov made big-time stops in the first period on Patric Hornqvist and Cullen in the first period. Roy said Nashville easily could have scored three or four goals in the opening period.
"They were a few tough ones," Roy said of Varlamov's saves. "They were tips and in front of him and I thought he reacted really well. ... We could have been out of this game pretty easy after the first period."
Colorado's Cody McLeod tied the game with 7:35 left in regulation, putting in a rebound of his own shot with a backhander to even the score at 3-3. Matt Duchene earned primary assist with some strong possession behind the net.
Nashville (31-31-11) fell to 1-6-1 at home in its past eight. The Predators began the day eight points out of the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference race to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Nashville coach Barry Trotz was unhappy with the Predators' defensive play on a couple of the Colorado goals. The line of Eric Nystrom (minus-2), Colin Wilson (minus-2) and Nick Spaling (minus-3) was the major culprit.
He criticized his wings for not being strong enough on the puck on the third goal. The fourth goal was more of a case of poor puck management.
"We gave up a late goal," Trotz said. "We can't give up those late goals. It's been a little bit of a hindrance for us in the last little while here. ... I thought on the third and fourth goals today we didn't make good plays."
Josi scored twice in the first period and Cullen scored the go-ahead goal in the second period.
Cullen scored for the second time in three games to give Nashville a 3-2 lead with 5:17 left in the second. The play started on a defensive zone faceoff, which Mike Fisher won. Ellis banked a pass off the left boards, sending Cullen in alone and he roofed a shot over Varlamov's right shoulder.
Cullen, who did not score between Nov. 28 and March 18, has scored three times in his past three games.
Josi scored twice in the first 9:49 of the first period for his 10th and 11th goals of the season to send Nashville out to a 2-0 lead. His slap shot from the left point beat Varlamov low to the stick side 3:33 into the game. Then off a faceoff win by Jarnkrok, Josi flipped a shot from the blue line that eluded Varlamov thanks to a screen by Nashville's Gabriel Bourque at 9:49.
Jarnkrok, whom Nashville received from the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for David Legwand, picked up his third assist in his third NHL game since being promoted from the Milwaukee Admirals of the American Hockey League.
Colorado had been outshot 13-1, but scored on its second shot of the first period with 54 seconds left to reach intermission trailing 2-1. Nathan MacKinnon did some nice work behind the net, using his strength to keep a couple of Predators defenders away. In quick succession, he passed the puck to Paul Stastny, who left it for Landeskog and the Colorado captain scored on a rising wrist shot from 13 feet.
Colorado took advantage of a Predators turnover off a breakout to even the game at 2-2 with 11:19 left in the second period. Landeskog ripped a wrist shot from the high slot for his 23rd of the season, a career-high for the 21-year-old.
Roy called Landeskog's goal at the end of the first period "the key moment of the game."
"What I like about our group is we were resilient, even if we were not playing our best game," Roy said.
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