The Colorado Avalanche rallied to tie the score and force overtime with Semyon Varlamov pulled late in the third period, but the Nashville Predators still secured the victory when Craig Smith got behind the Avalanche defense and scored the decisive goal with 2:14 left in the overtime period.

Remarkably, it was the third time in the last four games that the Avalanche (20-18-11) have pulled their goalie and tied the game in the closing minutes. The club has earned at least one point in five of their last six contests, but they still lost ground in the playoff race as the Calgary Flames picked up a win over the Buffalo Sabres to move four points ahead of the Avs.

The Predators (31-10-5) controlled most of the game with a 39-24 shooting advantage. They improved to a league-leading 19-2-1 at home with their seventh straight home win.

“We missed the net at times, but I thought they did a good job protecting,” head coach Patrick Roy said. “This (Nashville) is a good defense. They’ve got six good D playing well. You’ve got to work hard to got shots on net, not scoring chances, just a shot on net and I thought our guys did a good job.”

Cody McLeod, who has been getting extended playing time of late, opened the scoring in the first period by driving the net and redirecting Zach Redmond’s point shot past Carter Hutton. Redmond played in his second consecutive game after being healthy scratched for the previous 11 contests.

McLeod had a busy opening frame as he also dropped the gloves with Paul Gaustad in the closing seconds of the period.

Roman Jusi tied the game at 1-1 with a blast from the point that beat a screened Varlamov early in the second period.

10 minutes later, Colin Wilson gave Nashville their first lead by one-timing a Seth Jones rebound between Varlamov’s legs on the power play.

Jarome Iginla scored his team-leading 15th goal of the season with a one-timed blast off a Matt Duchene drop pass to tie the game again at 2-2 late in the second period. The 37-year-old is second on the Avalanche with 32 points through 49 games.

In the opening minute of the third period, Varlamov misplayed a Filip Forsberg rebound straight back onto Forsberg’s stick for a rebound goal to put the Predators ahead 3-2.

“I thought [Varlamov] played really well. Obviously maybe one goal he would like to have back,” said coach Roy. “Other than this, I thought he made some key saves and kept us in the game.”

With the extra attacked on the ice and hope waning in the closing minute of the game, Nick Holden found himself alone in the slot and buried the game-tying goal to force overtime.

“I thought our guys did a good job to stay focused and we did not panic,” coach Roy said. “Then we scored that big goal at the end when we pulled the goalie to tie the game at 3-3.”

Mike Ribeiro – who registered three assists in the game – made a nasty saucer pass to catch Brad Stuart flatfooted and spring Smith on a breakaway for the game-winner in overtime.

“We had a very good first period. I have to give them credit,” coach Roy said. “It’s a team that plays with a lot of intensity. In the second, they took advantage of the play but I thought we just found a way to stay in that game and battle through.”

The Avalanche return home to host the Predators on Friday.

Nathan is a staff writer for Mile High Sports. He can be reached on Twitter at @TheRealNatron.

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