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Walker nets first goals since surgery as Preds skate past Pens

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Blame fatigue or sloppiness. The
Nashville Predators finished up their 12th game in 20 days happy to
escape with a victory over the struggling Pittsburgh Penguins.

Scott Walker scored his first two goals since returning from
surgery that kept him out of 33 games, and the Predators held off
Pittsburgh 5-4 Sunday night after blowing most of a four-goal lead.

Nashville coach Barry Trotz said his Predators relaxed too
quickly.

"I thought we were real sloppy in our clears and our passes and
not real sharp. ... Just chalk it up to 12 games in 20 nights. Guys
are trying to get a little rest, and mentally they're not sharp,"
Trotz said.

Paul Kariya, Martin Erat and Adam Hall also scored for the
Predators, who rank fourth in the Western Conference. Scott
Hartnell finished with two assists.

The Penguins, who scored more than one goal for the first time
in four games, lost their sixth straight and remain at the bottom
of the East. Ryan Malone and Colby Armstrong each had a goal and an
assist, and Michel Ouellet and Josef Melichar also scored. Rookie
Sidney Crosby had an assist.

Nashville was very happy to be home after playing 10 of the last
13 on the road. The Predators chased Sebastien Caron out of the net
1:11 into the second after Walker's second goal made it 4-1.

"This is our fourth game in six nights on the road,"
Pittsburgh coach Michel Therrien said. "It's not easy. The effort
was there for most of our play. Sometimes you can't always blame
the goalie. It's the mental mistakes that causes goals."

Marc-Andre Fleury, playing for the first time in the building
where he was drafted in 2003 first overall, gave up a breakaway
goal to Hall less than two minutes later for a 5-1 lead. Fleury
then stopped the next 17 shots.

The Predators nearly squandered the lead as the Penguins refused
to quit. They outshot Nashville 40-32, including 17-5 in the third.
Armstrong scored his third of the season at 9:15 of the third,
squeezing the puck through goaltender Tomas Vokoun's legs to make
it 5-4.

"I don't know what's going on," Fleury said. "We had such a
good stretch. Now it seems so tough to just get a win. Hopefully,
it's going to change."

Nashville now has allowed at least 33 shots in five of its last
six games.

"I don't care what the score is. With the way the game is now,
no lead is safe, so you have to focus," he said.

Malone put Pittsburgh up 1-0 with an assist off Vokoun's right
foot after sweeping the puck off the rebound of his own miss past
the goalie at 4:26 of the first period.

The Predators tied the game 96 seconds later when Walker shot
from the right circle and knocked the puck off the right post. It
was his second this season and first in his fifth game since
returning from sports hernia surgery. His second was a bit of luck
as the puck went off his helmet, and Nashville improved to 10-0-2
with him in the lineup.

"I'm just trying to get myself back in and keep everyone going
and not slow everything down," Walker said.

Maxime Talbot may have given the Penguins an emotional boost
after a fight with Nashville forward Darcy Hordichuk after
Hordichuk's clean check of Ziggy Palffy at 5:58 of the second.
Ouellet scored on a power-play at 17:23, and Melichar got his first
goal less than a minute later to pull within 5-3.

Game notes
Nashville now is unbeaten in six straight with Pittsburgh
going back to Oct. 8, 2000. ... Kariya has at least a point in four
straight games, while Sullivan extended his own streak with at
least a point to five. Perreault now has 19 points in his last 18
games, including a point in five straight. ... Pittsburgh dropped
to 9-2-3 when scoring first. Nashville improved to 17-0-3 when
leading after the second period.