NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Great goaltending is helping keep the Nashville Predators' improbable playoff hopes alive.
Mark Jankowski had a goal and an assist in the first period and the young Predators beat the Carolina Hurricanes 3-0 on Thursday night.
Goalie Juuse Saros also made 33 saves for the win with his second shutout this season and 20th of his career, helping the Predators win their second straight and third in four games.
“The foundation of our team is strong goaltending and Juuse tonight he obviously made some big saves at key times for us," Nashville coach John Hynes said.
Michael McCarron scored to give Nashville a 2-0 lead in the first. Dante Fabbro added an empty-net goal with 2:44 remaining, and Spencer Stastney had two assists for his first NHL points.
Saros got some timely help.
A review in the final minute of the second overturned a goal by Carolina defenseman Brady Skjei for Martin Necas interfering with Saros in the crease. At 3:59 of the third, defenseman Brent Burns's goal from outside the blue line that went in behind an outstretched Saros was erased by an offsides call.
Carolina coach Rod Brind'Amour called it a tough night.
“How many more chances are we going to get?" Brind'Amour said. "You know, we’re right in front of him the first and second period. You got to bury one. Then we did and got the goalie interference thing, and that was really the kind of the way the night went for us.”
The Predators seemed well out of the playoff chase with a flurry of injuries and trades at the deadline after announcing the franchise's only general manager David Poile, also the NHL's longest and winningest GM, will retire June 30.
But Nashville beat the NHL's best in Boston on March 28. They edged the Western Conference leader in overtime Tuesday night and this win puts them a point back of Winnipeg, currently holding the second wild-card spot in the West, and Calgary a slot above the Predators.
The Predators still have a game in hand on Calgary.
“It’s huge,” Jankowski said. “We know the position we’re in, and we take our guys against anyone. We’re not backing down. We see who’s across the ice there, and we’re not backing down from anyone. We believe in this group, no matter who we’re playing against.”
Carolina already has its playoff berth clinched with the Hurricanes trying to hold off New Jersey for first in the Metropolitan Division. They snapped a three-game winning streak with their lead down to a point over the Devils with a game in hand.
“The division is still in our hands,” Carolina captain Jordan Staal said. “We’ve got to win these games and really just play to a man, just a better effort from everyone.”
The Predators came in tied for fifth in the NHL scoring the first goal in 43 games this season. They improved to 8-0-1 over their current stretch with Luke Evangelista in the box for putting the puck over the glass, Jankowski beat goalie Frederik Andersen with a wrister for the shorthanded goal at 7:47.
Jankowski had the assist when McCarron scored from the right boards with a deflection past Andersen at 10:47 for a 2-0 lead.
SAROS AND CANES
The goalie improved to 2-0 against Carolina this season after setting career-highs Jan. 5 facing 67 shots and making 64 saves in Nashville's 5-3 road win.
Defenseman Jake Livingstone became the sixth to make his NHL debut this season with Nashville. He played with veteran Tyson Barrie. Livingstone, who turns 24 later this month, signed a one-year, entry-level deal with the Predators last week after a three-year career at Minnesota State.
Stastney, playing in his fourth game since being called up from the AHL last weekend, had his first career assist on McCarron's goal. He got his second on Fabbro's goal.
The Hurricanes continue their final road trip of the regular season Saturday afternoon at Buffalo.
The Predators hit the road for the final time to decide their playoff future, visiting Winnipeg on Saturday night and then Calgary on Monday night.
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