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Jones keeps Predators in hunt

RYAN Jones scored with 2:18 left on the clock to give visiting Nashville a 4-3 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Monday, keeping the Predators in the hunt for a Western Conference playoff spot.

Jones' backhand goal was his seventh of the season and moved Nashville (35-30-5) into seventh place in the West with just 12 games remaining.

The Kings' (29-30-10) slim hopes of grabbing one of the Conference's eight playoff spots faded further with the loss.

"Our mentality is that we have to scrape points every night we can," Nashville forward Steve Sullivan said.

"We wanted to propel ourselves back into the playoffs and create some separation between us and (the Kings)."

The Kings' Michal Handzus, who had a goal and an assist, said his team should have pushed for the win after leveling the score at 3-3.

"When we were tied 3-3, we didn't go after it," Handzus said.

"They started pushing back and we were on our heels. Against the top teams we've got to play 60 minutes and we will get some points."

The Predators won for the eight time in 11 games despite missing top goal scorer Jason Arnott, who is out with an upper body injury.

Anze Kopitar recorded his 25th goal of the season in the first period to give Los Angeles a 1-0 lead before Shea Weber tied things up at 1-1.

Nashville took a 3-2 lead going into the third period after goals from Joel Ward and Steve Sullivan sandwiched Teddy Purcell's strike in the second.

Handzus scored at 9:53 of the third to tie the score at 3-3 before Jones sealed the win for the Preds.

Goaltender Pekka Rinne had 26 saves for the Predators and improved to 13-3-1 since February 1.

Erik Ersberg also had 26 saves for the Kings, who lost their third game in a row.

In Atlanta, Kari Lehtonen made a career-high 49 saves, and Slava Kozlov and Tobias Enstrom each had a goal and an assist to help Atlanta to a 5-1 win over the Capitals. It was also Atlanta's team-record sixth straight win.

Washington, which ranks second in the Eastern Conference and is tied for third overall with 229 goals, had a three-game winning streak snapped.

Lehtonen, who faced a career-high 50 shots, nearly earned his third shutout in five starts, but Eric Fehr spoiled the bid with 1:15 remaining when he swept in his 11th goal.

Alex Ovechkin, the NHL's leading goal scorer and the reigning MVP, was held without a point for the first time in 11 games and the second time in 22.

Colby Armstrong and rookie Anssi Salmela, with his first NHL goal, also scored for the Thrashers.


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