Predators clinch playoff spot with 4-2 win over Avalanche

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DENVER (AP) — Colton Sissons and Filip Forsberg each scored twice, backup goaltender Juuse Saros stopped 33 shots and the Nashville Predators became the first NHL team to clinch a playoff spot this season by beating the Colorado Avalanche 4-2 on Friday night.

The streaking Predators are 13-0-1 in their last 14 games and haven't lost in regulation since Feb. 17 against Detroit.

Starting goalie Pekka Rinne was given the night off after helping Nashville to a win at Arizona on Thursday. The team didn't miss a beat with Saros in net.

Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog had the goals for a Colorado team that returned home after earning two straight road wins, including Thursday in St. Louis. The loss snapped Colorado's string of nine straight games with a point. The squad still remains in the thick of the playoff chase.

Semyon Varlamov turned back 24 shots as he started both games of a back-to-back for the first time this season.

MacKinnon nearly tied the game late in the third period, but his shot hit off the shoulder of Saros. Nashville also weathered two penalties by P.K. Subban in the final period. Colorado pulled Varlamov in the final two minutes and it led to a game-sealing goal by Forsberg into an empty net with 1:09 remaining.

Landeskog gave the Avalanche a 2-1 lead in the second, but Forsberg tied it three minutes later. Sissons put the Predators up for good when his shot clanged off the crossbar and dropped into the net. The Predators now have at least one point in a franchise-best 14 consecutive road games.

It was a rare home loss for Colorado, which is 14-2-1 over its last 17 games at the Pepsi Center. Then again, the Predators have long given their Central Division rival fits. They've won 10 straight over the Avalanche, including six in a row in Denver.

Sissons scored in the first period by sending in a shot off Varlamov's shoulder. With 58.9 seconds remaining in the period, MacKinnon fired in a shot to tie it at 1. It was his NHL-leading 60th point at home.

MacKinnon's goal was set up by a pass from Tyson Barrie, who ran his point streak to nine straight games and matched the longest streak by an Avalanche defenseman since they moved to town in 1995-96.

Varlamov was in net for a second straight night, with regular backup Jonathan Bernier sidelined by a concussion and Spencer Martin recently recalled.

Colorado coach Jared Bednar left the decision up to Varlamov, given the Russian goaltender's injury history. Varlamov missed 10 games with a lower-body injury in January after being limited to 24 games last season due to a nagging groin injury that he attempted to remedy through hip surgery.

"Varly feels good," Bednar said.

NOTES: Nashville improved to 7-1-1 in the second game of a back-to-back this season, while Colorado dropped to 3-7-0. ... Avalanche D Erik Johnson (upper body) and Bernier skated Friday. ... F Vladislav Kamenev (arm) will return to Denver this weekend after being loaned to San Antonio of the American Hockey League on a conditioning assignment. ... Alpine ski racer Lindsey Vonn attended the game. She earned a bronze medal in the downhill at the Pyeongchang Olympics.


Predators: Finish a three-game trip at Buffalo on Monday.

Avalanche: Host the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday.


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