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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — In a matchup of two of the top teams in the NHL, James Neal and the Nashville Predators needed overtime to come out on top.
Neal scored at 4:27 of the extra period to give the Predators a 3-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night.
Seth Jones and Taylor Beck also scored for Nashville, which has won three straight and five of its past six. The Predators have an NHL-best 78 points.
"I think our guys, certainly they know the standings, they read the standings where everybody is at in the league," Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. "We've talked about our place in life for a long time and always trying to fight for it and stay with where we're at.
"Somebody is always going to try to take something from you, so we have to keep fighting for it."
Brett Connolly and Nikita Kucherov had the goals for Tampa Bay, which has lost two of three. They lead the Eastern Conference with 74 points.
With time winding down in overtime, Neal beat Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy between the pads with a wrist shot from the left circle.
"At that point, I'm trying to get to the net as quickly as possible and I'm not worried about the clock," Neal said. "(Roman) Josi made a great play up the middle to spring me and threw it up with a bit of speed there and I got it off quick."
Jones opened the scoring at 8:31 of the second period.
From the right faceoff dot, Jones snapped a shot high to the stick side of Vasilevskiy. The puck entered the net quickly and bounced out and was originally called no goal on the ice. A video review reversed the call and gave Jones credit for his sixth goal of the season.
"I saw it go in," Jones said. "I saw the net move."
After being recalled earlier in the day from Milwaukee of the AHL, Viktor Stalberg had the primary assist on Jones' goal.
Jones has points in five consecutive games.
Beck doubled the Nashville lead at 12:47 of the second.
From above the left circle, Paul Gaustad's shot hit the right post, but Beck was in front to convert the rebound.
Beck's goal was his first since Dec. 23.
Connolly got the Lightning on the board at 1:20 of the third.
Valtteri Filppula's shot from the slot hit the left post, but Connolly was directly in front of Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne and converted the rebound. Rinne finished with 30 saves.
"Playoffs are going to be those kind of teams every single night," Connolly said. We're playing a lot of good teams this month, so we've got to be ready."
Kucherov evened the game at 2 at 7:50 of the third with a baseball swing at a loose puck from the low slot.
"Well, down 2-0 in arguably the hardest place to play if you're going record-wise in the league against the team with the most points in the league," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "You're down two-zip and you eke a point out of it, so you can't be displeased with that."
Notes: Nashville D Victor Bartley played in his 100th NHL game. Nashville C Colin Wilson missed his second consecutive game with an upper-body injury. ... Filppula has four points in his past two games. ... Tampa Bay is 1-15-2 when trailing after two periods this season.
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