Wednesday, March 12, 2014
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Predators hand reeling Sabres third straight loss

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[March 12, 2014]  BUFFALO, N.Y.  After surrendering a big lead Monday night, the Nashville Predators were not eager to see it happen again.

The Predators jumped out to a 3-1 lead against the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday and held on for a 4-1 win. On Monday, the Predators lost a 3-0 lead against Ottawa, but managed to win 4-3 in overtime.

"We weren't going to let that happen two games in a row," Nashville center Colin Wilson said.

Center Craig Smith and defenseman Shea Weber scored second-period goals for the Predators (28-28-10), who won back-to-back games for the first time since losing seven of eight games from Feb. 1-March 8. Left winger Nick Spaling and center Paul Gaustad also scored for Nashville.

"We managed it the right way," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "(Monday) night we cheated in a couple areas. We managed the puck better. We exited better. All those type of things were much better for us."

Goaltender Carter Hutton was terrific between the pipes for Nashville and made 24 saves.

"Keeping that two-goal lead going into the third was pretty huge for us," Hutton said. "After last night, we gave up three in the third but we knew tonight we were going to lock it down and play our game."


Right winger Drew Stafford scored for the Sabres (19-38-8), who lost their third game in a row. Goalie Jhonas Enroth made 20 saves.

"I think we didn't battle that hard," Enroth said. "We've got to battle harder."

The final stretch of the season only gets more difficult for the struggling Sabres, who traded three of their top players prior to the trade deadline (Ryan Miller, Steve Ott and Matt Moulson), have lost three games in a row and play 12 of their final 17 games on the road.

"I talked to them, their confidence is a little bit rattled right now," Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan said. "But through tough times like this you find out true character of certain players and through some ashes sometimes there rises some people."

On Tuesday, the Sabres had only one productive line on offense  featuring Stafford, left winger Cory Conacher and center Tyler Ennis  and struggled to create chances in the opposing end.

"There was only one line basically going," Nolan said. "You're not going to win too many games doing that."

Stafford, playing in his 500th career game, got the Sabres on the board 2:09 into the first by finishing a rebound opportunity inside the Predators crease. Following a shot from center Cody Hodgson, Stafford put home his 12th goal of the season. The right winger now has 14 points (eight goals, six assists) in his last 15 games.

Spaling evened the score with 2:51 remaining in the first by deflecting a Weber shot on the power play. Weber's change-up shot from the right crease caromed off Spaling's right skate and into the net for his 13th goal of the season.

[to top of second column]

Nashville took a 2-1 lead 3:33 into the second on Weber's 16th of the season. From the bottom of the left circle, Weber ripped a wrist shot past Enroth high to the glove side.

Smith made it 3-1 four minutes later on a blast from the point following some nice work from center Colin Wilson, who assisted on the goal. It was Smith's team-best 20th goal of the year.

The Predators then did a great job of smothering any potential scoring chances from the Sabres, who were stymied in the third period.

"The majority of their chances came in the second came in the second," Hutton said. "In the third we really played good shut down. They didn't have a lot of great looks, just throwing pucks at the net. From there we kinda boxed out and battled."

"We were just making sure that we didn't give them anything to get excited about," Trotz said.

Gaustad added an empty-netter with 1:31 remaining.

"We've been playing good hockey," said Gaustad, the former Sabre. "We haven't been getting the results we wanted but we've been playing really well as of late so it's nice to get rewarded for doing that."

NOTES: Buffalo scratched RW Chris Stewart (lower body), C Zemgus Girgensons (lower body), C Torrey Mitchell (lower body) and D Alexander Sulzer. Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan said earlier Tuesday that Stewart, acquired shortly before the trade deadline as part of the Ryan Miller trade, is likely out for the remainder of the season. ... The Predators' scratches were RW Patrick Eaves and D Victor Bartley. ... Predators C Paul Gaustad played his first game in Buffalo against his former team since being traded to Nashville in February 2012. ... The teams last played against each other on Dec. 3, 2011, a 3-2 Buffalo win in Nashville.

[ 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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