Final OT

Series (Game 1 of 2)

Nashville leads 2-0

Game 1: Saturday, February 28th
Rangers1Final
OT
Predators2
Game 2: Thursday, March 25th
Predators4Final
Rangers2

Rangers 1

(23-29-5, 58 pts)

Predators 2

(32-23-2, 73 pts)

3:00 PM ET, February 28, 2004

Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, Tennessee

1 2 3 OT T
NYR 0 0 1 01
NSH 0 1 0 12

A. Hutchinson (Predators - D): Goals: 1, Assists: 0

T. Vokoun (Predators - G): Saves: 25, Save Pct.: .962

J. Markkanen (Rangers - G): Saves: 41, Save Pct.: .953

Hutchinson scores winner for Nashville

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Only one number mattered to the Nashville Predators on Saturday, and it wasn't the difference between the league's lowest payroll and the NHL's biggest spenders -- the New York Rangers.

Andrew Hutchinson scored a power-play goal 3:50 into overtime as the Predators beat the Rangers 2-1 for their fifth victory in six games in their chase for the 6-year-old franchise's first playoff berth.

The Predators started this season with a league-low, $23-million payroll compared with $77 million for the Rangers, and Nashville coach Barry Trotz said earlier this season that beating New York would have been more a matter of earning respect.

"Now it's all about getting two points," he said of a victory that moved the Preds closer to a playoff spot in the Western Conference.

New York came into the game 12th in the Eastern Conference and dropped its fourth in six games, losing most of its momentum from a 6-3 victory over the New York Islanders in interim coach Tom Renney's debut.

Matthew Barnaby tied it at 1-all in the third period for the Rangers.

But even though they swept the season series from the Islanders 6-0, the Rangers are 0-3-1-2 in games immediately after playing their biggest rivals. Furthermore, New York has not won two straight since Dec. 29-30.

Nashville, which outshot New York 43-26, finally got the advantage it needed in overtime when Alexei Kovalev was penalized with a double minor for high-sticking Steve Sullivan and drawing blood from his nose at 1:02 of the extra period.

"I was trying to lift his stick, and I hit him in the face," Kovalev said. "I missed his stick."

New York didn't record a single shot in overtime, and Nashville finally got the puck past backup goalie Jussi Markkanen when Hutchinson scored his third on a one-timer from the top of the left circle off a pass from Kimmo Timonen.

It was the first overtime goal for Hutchinson, recalled from Milwaukee of the AHL on Wednesday after defenseman Jason York fractured a cheekbone in practice.

"To win the game for your team, it's amazing," said Hutchinson, who had an Admirals bag at his feet in the dressing room.

Sullivan also had an assist, his 12th point in six games since being acquired from Chicago on Feb. 16.

Nashville had been shut out on its first nine power-play chances before Hutchinson's goal gave the Predators 10 man-advantage goals in six games. Andreas Johansson scored an unassisted goal in the second period.

Renney wasn't too disappointed with his team's performance.

"We pressed on, we fought through some penalty-kill stuff that we would rather not have. But we stayed with the program, continued to work hard, and it was anybody's game," he said.

The Predators didn't seem ready for the afternoon faceoff as New York outshot them 13-6 in the first period. Trotz credited goalie Tomas Vokoun with keeping them in the game.

"Without the performance of Vokoun in the first five or six minutes of the game, we don't win that hockey game. He was outstanding," Trotz said.

Johansson got Nashville going in the second as he took the puck, knocked loose by teammate Jeremy Stevenson from Rangers forward Jed Ortmeyer, and scored on a slap shot from the left circle at 7:25 for a 1-0 lead.

Markkanen stopped 22 shots as the Predators spent most of the second period camped in front of him, outshooting New York 23-7. He even had to kill off a five-on-three advantage late caused by consecutive too many men on the ice penalties against the Rangers.

"I don't know what happened," Renney said. "We'll take full responsibility for that as coaches. That's our job."

Barnaby tied it at 4:44 of the third off a pass from Greg de Vries in front of the goal. Barnaby scored his 10th goal by tapping the puck past Vokoun.

Game notes


Nashville had just its third sellout this season in 34 home games. ... Sullivan has 11 goals and 10 assists in 12 games. ... Rangers forward Jaromir Jagr was shut out after having eight points in four games. ... Renney gave Mike Dunham another day to rest after the regular goalie had tenderness in his back earlier this week.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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