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Hutchinson scores winner for Nashville

2/28/2004

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.