NASHVILLE -- As soon as Nashville Predators coach Barry Trotz heard the first words of the first question in Tuesday night's postgame press conference, he started chuckling.
"I knew you'd ask that," he said when queried about his team holding a third-period lead for the first time in three weeks. "It was a different feeling."
A winning feeling, to be exact, even though it comes far too late to prevent the Predators from missing the playoffs for just the second time in nine years.
Rookie Austin Watson snapped a third-period tie with his first NHL goal, and Matt Halischuk added an insurance goal less than 90 seconds later as the Predators ended their franchise-record eight-game skid with a 4-3 win over the Calgary Flames.
Nashville (16-21-9) hadn't won since a 3-1 decision over Colorado on April 2, dropping six straight home games in that span and scoring just 12 goals. Moments after snapping their losing streak, Predators players raised their sticks to the crowd of 17,113 -- the 20th capacity audience in 24 home matches.
"It's been a tough year for everybody," Halischuk said. "It was good to win this one for the fans that have stuck with us all year."
Roman Cervenka scored two goals for the Flames, who lost for just the second time in seven games and saw a three-game winning streak end. Calgary (19-23-4) scratched nine regulars, using a lineup composed mostly of minor league call-ups and role players.
Watson zipped a 23-foot wrist shot past Miikka Kiprusoff at 3:17 of the third, set up by a sweet pass from Craig Smith. It was just the sixth NHL game for Watson, one of many call-ups from Milwaukee of the AHL who have been pressed into duty thanks to a slew of injuries to Predators forwards.
"It was just a matter of staying the course," Watson said of getting on the score sheet. "It's not going to come if you push too hard. I just wanted to play a good, solid game defensively, and whatever happened, happened."
Halischuk made it 4-2 at 4:40, flipping a point-blank shot off Kiprusoff's mask for his fifth goal of the year and third in two games.
Cervenka deflected Chris Butler's shot past Pekka Rinne at 15:10 to pull the Flames within a goal, but the visitors couldn't produce the equalizer.
Calgary started the scoring at 5:59 of the first period as defenseman T.J. Brodie notched his second goal off a wrist shot from the right faceoff circle. Nashville tied it when David Legwand slipped a rebound through Kiprusoff's legs at 14:39 of the first for his 200th career goal.
Eighteen-year-old Filip Forsberg, playing his fourth NHL game, picked up his first point on Legwand's milestone goal, drawing the second assist. Formerly considered Washington's top prospect, Forsberg was acquired April 3 in a deal that sent Martin Erat east.
"His first three games, he's going up against (Detroit, Vancouver and Chicago)," Trotz said of Forsberg. "I'm pretty excited. He's big and he's fast. If you close your eyes and listen to Forsberg's shot, it's got that snap to it."
Cervenka gave Calgary a 2-1 edge at 7:06 of the second on a breakaway, but Nick Spaling tipped Shea Weber's shot past Kiprusoff on a power play at 18:31 to even the score at 2. That restored momentum for the Predators, who dominated the third period, outshooting the Flames 11-3.
Besides Cervenka, Calgary's other bright spot was 20-year-old left wing Sven Baertschi, who extended his point-scoring streak to six games with two assists. His three-line pass that bounced over the stick of defenseman Kevin Klein set up Cervenka's first goal.
"Obviously, Sven's a great offensive player," Flames coach Bob Hartley said. "It's just a matter of molding him into a player who understands all three zones. He's willing to learn, and we're willing to invest lots of time in him."
NOTES: Nashville defenseman Hal Gill started his 1,100th NHL game. The 38-year-old has been limited to 30 games this year, mostly because of injury. ... Among the veterans scratched for Calgary were left winger Mike Cammalleri, right winger Lee Stempniak and defenseman Cory Sarich. By contrast, the Predators reported no scratches, mainly because they have seven forwards out with injuries. ... Nashville center Mike Fisher (hand) was hoping to return Tuesday night but wasn't able to go. It's not known if he'll play during the team's season-ending road trip to Detroit and Columbus. ... Flames right winger Brian McGrattan started in his second game back in Nashville. The former Predator was acquired Feb. 28 for Joe Piskula.