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After slow start, Predators trounce Leafs

The SportsXchange

TORONTO -- Nashville Predators coach Barry Trotz admitted his team was a little lucky to escape the first period trailing by only one goal Thursday.

He was delighted with the way the rest of the game went as the Predators scored the next four goals -- two by center Craig Smith, who also had an assist -- to come away with a 4-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs.

"What we really wanted to do was stay disciplined and stay structured, and we didn't do any of those in the first period," Trotz said.

Center Matt Cullen had a goal and three assists, and rookie defenseman Seth Jones also scored for Predators, who extended their winning streak to three games.

Center Colin Wilson chipped in with two assists for Nashville, which scored three unanswered goals in the second period, two on power plays.

"Our penalty-killing has been good, but in the last couple of games, we've been exposed," Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said. "We haven't cleared the puck when we've had the opportunity. The opposition has been able to hold it in."

Centers Peter Holland and Nazem Kadri scored for the Maple Leafs, who had a five-game home winning streak snapped.

"We've turned the ship around a little bit," Smith said. "We've stayed on a few things that we've been doing since the beginning of the year. If we stick with that, good things are going to happen."

Nashville goalkeeper Marek Mazanec, making his sixth career NHL start, stopped 24 of 26 shots.

Toronto goalkeeper Jonathan Bernier, starting his second game in a row, stopped 24 of 28 shots.

"I think we could be a little tighter," Leafs rookie defenseman Morgan Rielly said. "They capitalized on the power play. We have to be aware if we make those mistakes they're going to capitalize."

Nashville (11-9-2) took a three-goal lead when Smith picked up his second goal of the game and sixth of the season at 4:32 of the third period on a shot from a sharp angle at the edge of the right faceoff circle. The puck hit Bernier's glove, bounced up and rolled over the goalie's shoulder into the net.

"Maybe the good fortune we've enjoyed has turned against us," Carlyle said.

Kadri picked up his sixth goal of the season at 15:28 of the third period to cut Nashville's lead to two goals.

The Predators, who trailed 1-0 after one period, took a 3-1 lead on Smith's first goal of the game during a power play on a close-in effort at 16:25 of the second period.

Cullen gave Nashville the lead at 11:14 of the second with his fourth goal of the season. Left winger Gabriel Bourque passed to Cullen, who whiffed on his first shot in front of goal before scoring with his second attempt.

The Predators tied the game at 2:01 of the second on Jones' third goal of the season, 36 seconds after Leafs left winger Mason Raymond was assessed a double minor for high-sticking center David Legwand. Cullen passed back to Jones, who fired a slap shot from just inside the blue line. The puck deflected in off the stick of Leafs center Jay McClement.

"In the second period, I thought we did a pretty good job," Trotz said. "We created some penalties, our power play was real huge for us. Then I thought we locked down the game pretty good other than the last minute and a half when we couldn't get the fifth goal (with the Leafs' net empty). We had about nine looks, but everybody was trying to share it."

The Leafs (13-8-1) started well. Bernier made a save on a point-blank shot by Cullen on a power play two minutes into the game to keep Nashville off the board. Holland then skated in unimpeded to score on a wrist shot from the left faceoff circle at 5:48 of the first period. It was Holland's second goal of the season and his first since he was acquired Saturday in a trade with the Anaheim Ducks.

NOTES: Leafs C Nazem Kadri was back in the lineup after serving a three-game suspension for his hit on Minnesota Wild G Niklas Backstrom on Nov. 13. ... Nashville LW Eric Nystrom (upper body) did not play Thursday, but he could be ready to return Saturday when the Predators host the New York Rangers. ... Predators C Filip Forsberg (upper body) continues to be listed as day-to-day. He did not play Thursday. ... The Leafs sent RW Carter Ashton to the AHL Toronto Marlies, opening a spot for C Tyler Bozak (hamstring) who could return to the lineup Saturday against the Washington Capitals. ... Toronto D Mark Fraser has not played since last Saturday, when he tweaked a knee against the Buffalo Sabres.
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