Hockey

Ryan Jones nets winner for 7th-place Predators

Ryan Jones scored the go-ahead goal with 2:18 remaining, Joel Ward had a goal and an assist, and J.P. Dumont had two assists, leading the Nashville Predators to a 4-3 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Monday night.

Rookie left-winger's late goal sends Kings to 3rd consecutive loss

The Nashville Predators strengthened their playoff hopes and damaged the Los Angeles Kings' chances of reaching the post-season.

Ryan Jones scored the go-ahead goal with 2:18 remaining, Steve Sullivan and Shea Weber also scored, and Joel Ward had a goal and an assist in the Predators' 4-3 victory over the fading Kings on Monday night.

"We've got two games left on this road trip, and we're trying to set ourselves up so that it doesn't come down to Game 82 and all the pressure to try to get in with one game left," Sullivan said.

With their eighth victory in 11 games, the Predators (35-30-5) overtook Dallas and Edmonton in the NHL's Western Conference playoff race and moved into seventh place.

They are a point ahead of the Stars and lead the ninth-place Oilers by two with 12 games remaining. Dallas has a game in hand on Nashville, while Edmonton has two.

"We want to win every night, but our mentality right now is try and scrape points out of every game that we can and be as gritty as we can be," Sullivan said. "Tonight was one of those games that puts us in a good position. We knew we had to win this game. We wanted to propel ourselves back into the playoffs and make sure we created some separation between us and them."

Anze Kopitar, Teddy Purcell and Michal Handzus scored for the Kings, who have lost three straight.

Los Angeles will bring a six-game road losing streak into Boston on Thursday, starting a six-game trip that probably will decide their playoff chances. The 13th-place Kings are six points behind eighth-place Dallas.

On the winning goal, Predators defenceman Dan Hamhuis barely kept the puck inside the Kings blue-line before taking a slapshot that Jones tipped in the low slot. Erik Ersberg couldn't control the rebound and went sprawling across the crease as Jones backhanded his seventh goal under Ersberg's flailing arm.

"It was a good job by Dan Hamhuis," Nashville head coach Barry Trotz said. "The puck was at Dan's feet and he was trying to get it through. And Ryan Jones, what he does best around the crease area is finding those loose pucks."

Sullivan put Nashville ahead 3-2 at 18:10 of the second period with his eighth goal, but Handzus tied it with 10:07 left in regulation.

The Predators, who came in with the NHL's second-worst power-play percentage, took a 2-1 lead at 1:24 of the second while on the advantage.

Ward was left unchecked at the left of the net when he got a cross-ice pass from Dumont and tucked his 12th goal between Ersberg's outstretched leg and the post.

Purcell tied it at 16:25 of the second during a Kings power play.

After coming up empty on two power plays, the Kings opened the scoring at 14:42 of the first period with Kopitar's 25th goal and sixth in eight games. Dustin Brown's wrist shot from the top of the left circle hit the left post and caromed to the other side of the crease, where Kopitar banked the rebound off rookie goalie Pekka Rinne's body.

Nashville tied it with 15 seconds left in the first period on Shea Weber's 19th goal.

"They have a really good goalie, and we managed to get three by him. But in the end, it wasn't enough," Brown said. "We have to do a better job of keeping the puck out of our zone."

With files from the Associated Press

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