With every point precious as they battle for a playoff berth, the Nashville Predators knew a game against the last-place Colorado Avalanche was one they couldn't afford to lose.
Thanks to a late rally, they didn't.
David Legwand broke a 1-1 tie with 1:14 remaining in regulation by stuffing his own rebound behind Jean-Sebastien Giguere as the Predators beat Colorado 3-1 on Tuesday night, avenging a 1-0 overtime loss in Denver three days earlier.
The victory gives the Predators 38 points, the same as the eighth-place St. Louis Blues in the Western Conference. However, Nashville (15-14-8) has played three more games.
"It's really important because we're right in the thick of things right now, which is great," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said.
After two scoreless periods, the Avalanche grabbed the lead 61 seconds into the third when Matt Duchene burst through four Predators near the Nashville blue line, raced in alone and beat Pekka Rinne for his 15th of the season.
It was only the 11th time in 37 games that the Avalanche scored first.
"It's disappointing," Colorado coach Joe Sacco said of failing to turn a rare first goal into a victory. "We worked pretty hard today. This time we scored the first goal, but offensive-zone penalties hurt. We had a young player take an offensive-zone penalty and they tied it up. Those are just some mistakes you can't afford to make when you are going through a tough time like this."
That "young player" was rookie Brad Malone, who was called for high-sticking at 8:01. The Predators got even 22 seconds later when Patric Hornqvist nudged home a loose puck for a power-play goal. Shea Weber's shot from the left point was stopped in front, but with players from both teams jamming away at the puck, Hornqvist was able to slide it over the goal line for his fourth goal of the season. The goal stood after a video review.
Legwand, the leading scorer in franchise history, put his team in front for the first him when he outmuscled Duchene for the puck behind the Colorado net, came out to Giguere's left and put his own rebound past Giguere after the goaltender had stopped his original shot.
"[Legwand] I thought the last two nights is paying a bigger price, and that whole line has been paying a big price to give us a chance to stay in it," Trotz said.
The Predators have seven of their last 11 games at Bridgestone Arena.
"This was a huge game for us obviously," Hornqvist said. "If we lost tonight, it would have been tough to make the playoffs. And now with a win, everybody is happy and we are going forward with that, but we still have to win more games to get in the races."
Giguere kept the Avalanche in the game with 35 saves. Pekka Rinne stopped 25 shots to improve to 11-3-1 in his last 15 games against Colorado.
"Giguere played one heck of a game for us, and that was definitely not the way to repay him, that's for sure," Duchene said.
The Avalanche (12-20-4) are last in the overall standings with 28 points.
Material from team media and wire services was used in this report.
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