Predators crush Colorado after clinching fourth place

Saturday, April 7, 2012 at 11:35pm
Staff reports

Craig Smith had a goal and two assists as the Nashville Predators concluded the 2011-12 regular season Saturday with a 6-1 rout of the Colorado Avalanche at Denver.

The game effectively was meaningless for the Predators, who earlier in the day clinched fourth place in the Western Conference standings by virtue of Chicago’s shootout victory over Detroit. As a result forwards Mike Fisher, Sergei Kostitsyn and Martin Erat — the first line for most of the second half of the season — and defensemen Hal Gill and Francis Bouillon were held out.

The Predators will have home-ice advantage for their first round playoff series against the Red Wings. It will be the third postseason matchup between the Central Division rivals (Detroit won the first two) but the first to open at Bridgestone Arena.

The complete first-round playoff schedule will be announced Sunday.

Colorado lost six of its last seven and missed out on a postseason berth.

Anders Lindback started in goal for Nashville and earned his fifth victory — his third in his last four appearances — but left the game with 17:46 to play when he was injured in a collision in front of the net. Pekka Rinne, who finished as the NHL’s leader with 43 wins, replaced him and stopped all 10 shots he faced.

The Avalanche outshot the Predators 45-29 overall, including 18-9 in the second period, but never led. Smith’s goal at 12:10 of the opening period put Nashville ahead to stay and started a run of five unanswered goals, which ended with Matt Halischuk’s goal (Smith had the only assist) with 13:40 remaining.

Halischuk (one goal, one assist) and defenseman Kevin Klein (two assists) each had multiple points as 12 different Predators had at least a goal or an assist.

Patric Hornqvist scored with just over a second to play in the first period and finished with a team-high 27, which made him the third player in franchise history to lead the team in goals more than once. Scott Walker and Jason Arnott each did it twice. Hornqvist had 30 in 2009-10.

Smith finished the season with 36 points (14 goals, 22 assists), one short of Alexander Radulov’s franchise rookie record.