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Preds stay in playoff race with win
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DENVER (AP) — The surging Nashville Predators gave themselves a little breathing room in the Western Conference playoff race.

Pekka Rinne made 27 saves and the Predators beat the Colorado Avalanche 3-2 on Thursday night to pass Anaheim, jumping from seventh place into a tie for fifth with Los Angeles with four games left.

Martin Erat had a goal and an assist and Colin Wilson and Jordin Tootoo also scored to help the Predators win for the ninth time in 11 games.

"It's been an amazing season how tight it's been," Rinne said. "You feel sharp and feel fresh all the time because there's so much on the table."

The Predators could keep climbing. They moved within four points of Central Division-leading Detroit and host the Red Wings on Saturday. Detroit has lost five of its last six, including a 10-3 home loss to St. Louis on Wednesday night.

"The Red Wings seem to bring the best out of us and our fans," Predators coach Barry Trotz said. "They're not going to be a happy crew. They'll bring their 'A' game."

The Predators had their 'A' game for most of Thursday night and looked as if they would cruise to an easy win against a struggling team. The Avalanche got goals from Paul Stastny and David Jones, and Brian Elliott made 31 saves, but it wasn't enough for Colorado, which is 3-22-2 in its last 27 games. Three of those losses have come against Nashville, which swept the season series.

"They're not unbelievable at one thing, they're really good at everything," Stastny said.