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DENVER (AP) The Nashville Predators didn’t break out the
bubbly or anything rowdy like that after becoming the first NHL team to clinch a
playoff spot this season.”Business as usual Jordan
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,” defenseman Ryan Ellis said of the low-key
celebration that included some pizza. ”Back to work.”Colton Sissons and Filip
Forsberg each scored twice, backup goaltender Juuse Saros stopped 33 shots and
the Predators secured their postseason berth 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.”The guys knew with
a win tonight we would clinch and I think they fought hard for it,” coach Peter
Laviolette said. ”I really liked our game tonight.”Starting goalie Pekka Rinne
was given the night off after helping Nashville to a win Thursday at Arizona.
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.”There’s no rest at this
time of the year. We have to make a push,” Varlamov said. ”Nashville’s a really
good team, tough to play against, but I think we played strong today, had a
really good game. We just didn’t score. We had a couple good chances at the
end.”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 have at least
one point in a franchise-best 14 consecutive road games.”We’re just working
hard. We played last night, got in late, but everybody’s here, everybody’s
working hard,” Forsberg said. ”It doesn’t have to be pretty. Get the job
done.”It was a rare home loss for Colorado, which is 14-2-1 over its last 17
games at the Pepsi Center. Then again Womens
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, 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.”They might be one of the better teams in the league, no
doubt,” Landeskog said. ”For us, it’s just a matter of learning from this one
and moving on.”Sissons scored in the first period by sending in a shot off
Varlamov’s shoulder. With just under a minute 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 games and matched the longest by an Avalanche defenseman since
the team moved to town in 1995-96.”You have to be happy with our effort,”
Colorado coach Jared Bednar said.Laviolette felt the same way, and took a
measure of pride in becoming the first team to clinch. Now, about that muted
celebration.”There’s no champagne in there,” he said. ”We’re moving on.”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.UP
NEXTPredators: Finish a three-game trip at Buffalo on Monday.Avalanche: Host the
Detroit Red Wings on Sunday.— BOSTON (AP) — The Boston Red Sox say ace
left-hander Chris Sale has a stomach illness and will spend the night in the
hospital.The Red Sox made the announcement Sunday night in the seventh inning of
Game 2 of the AL Championship Series against Houston.Boston said Sale reported
the illness earlier in the day and was admitted to Massachusetts General
Hospital. He will be held overnight for observation.The 29-yaer-old Sale
struggled with his control in Boston’s 7-2 loss to the Astros in the series
opener Saturday night. He allowed two runs with four walks and a hit batter in
four innings despite giving up just one hit.Sale picked up the win in Game 1 of
the AL Division Series against the Yankees when he pitched into the sixth
inning. He also threw a perfect eighth inning in the clincher at Yankee Stadium
on Tuesday night.Sale missed nearly six weeks, making just one start, from late
July into September with mild left shoulder inflammation before he worked his
way back into the rotation with four starts in September.
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