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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Blake Comeau had a goal and an assist, and the Colorado Avalanche used a fast start to edge the Nashville Predators 4-3 on Monday night.
Gabriel Landeskog and Jack Skille also scored in the first, helping Colorado chase Pekka Rinne at 11:40 after giving up three goals on 10 shots faced. Shawn Matthias's goal in the third wound up the game-winner.
The Avalanche played without centers Matt Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon because of knee injuries. But Colorado managed to stay close to Minnesota in the race for the second wild card in the Western Conference, pulling within three points of the idle Wild with six games left.
Nashville had recorded at least a point in 10 straight home games. It needed a regulation win to clinch its second straight playoff berth.
Craig Smith had a goal and an assist for the Predators, and Colton Sissons and Roman Josi scored 24 seconds apart late in the third. Carter Hutton was pulled for an extra attacker with about 90 seconds left, but the Predators couldn't beat goaltender Semyon Varlamov again as Colorado took the win and the season series 3-1 even with the final game back in Nashville on April 5.
The Predators had posted the NHL's best record since Feb. 12, with Rinne going 12-1-2 over his last 15 games. They were coming off a 5-1 win over Columbus on Saturday night that included a dominant first period.
Colorado got the strong start this time, and Nashville did not provide much help for Rinne.
Nashville defenseman Mattias Ekholm's turnover led to Comeau's goal on a wrist shot at 6:36. Landeskog scored his 19th at 10:10 when the puck went off his skate, and the goal was upheld on review. Skille chased Rinne with his tip-in off a pass from Cody McLeod. Hutton came in and faced only two shots the rest of the period.
Smith got Nashville on the board with a wrist shot past Varlamov off a nice cross-ice pass from Filip Forsberg at 17:08 of the first.
The Predators thought they had pulled within 3-2 late in the second period when Miikka Salomaki scored at 17:23. But Colorado coach Patrick Roy challenged, and officials waived off the goal with Nashville offside.
Matthias made it 4-1 at 12:13 of the third when he scored his 10th off a pass from Mikkel Boedker. Nashville made it interesting when Sissons tipped in a shot by Salomaki at 14:58, and then Josi scored on a wrister at 15:22.
NOTES: Comeau's goal was the 100th of his career. ... Duchene missed his fourth straight game and MacKinnon his third. ... Josi set the Nashville scoring record for defensemen with his 57th point this season, breaking a tie with captain Shea Weber. ... Smith's goal gave him 20 for a third straight season.