DENVER — The Colorado Avalanche have gone into post-season mode early. It paid off with a big win against Nashville.
Tyson Barrie put Colorado ahead midway through the third period and the Avalanche beat the Predators 5-3 on Friday night.
Ryan Johansen had a goal and an assist in his first game with the Predators since they traded for him Wednesday.
He stepped into the middle of a January game that had a playoff feel to it. The Avalanche have climbed out of an early season slump by going 9-2-2 over the last four weeks and pulled even with the Predators for fifth in the Central Division with 45 points. Nashville has played one fewer game.
“It felt like a playoff atmosphere,” Colorado forward Blake Comeau said. “I think both teams knew what was on the line. We’ve been scratching quite a bit here the last little while to get back in the playoff picture. That was huge for us.”
Barrie gave Colorado another big win when beat goalie Pekka Rinne with a shot from the top of the slot with 9 minutes left. It was his third goal in three games.
“The puck went to (defenceman Nick) Holden and their guy went back to the bench for a stick,” Barrie said. “I was screaming for it and he made a nice pass to me and I tried to get it on net. We’d done a good job wearing them out.”
“That was a playoff game tonight,” Colorado coach Patrick Roy said. “The way our conference is, and especially our division, it’s going to be playoff hockey in January.”
Ryan Ellis and Filip Forsberg also scored for Nashville and Rinne made 22 saves.
Nashville sent defenceman Seth Jones to Columbus for Johansen. The young centre was put in the middle of the first line with James Neal and Colin Wilson, giving the Predators some firepower atop the lineup.
Johansen came through with two points but Nashville lost for the fifth time in its last seven games.
“He was really good,” Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said.
Nashville pulled Rinne with 2:02 left and the Predators swarmed Varlamov, but Skille sealed it with a goal into the empty net with 2 seconds left.
“To think, a month ago we were nine points behind these guys,” Barrie said. “It says a lot about our club and what we have been able to do. A lot of season left, but I think we’re building towards something and we’re getting better every night.”
Johansen made an immediate impact when he scored a power-play goal on his first shot. His seventh of the season gave Nashville a 1-0 lead 2:35 into the game.
He also assisted on Forsberg’s goal late in the second that tied the game at 3.
“It’s definitely nice to get something early like that,” Johansen said. “Hopefully, I can use that as some confidence and move forward in shooting the puck. It’s too bad we couldn’t find a way to win this one. It would have been a lot cooler.”
Colorado took a 2-1 lead into the first intermission on a late goals by Iginla and McLeod, but Nashville tied it 2:45 into the second on Ellis’ goal.
Landeskog made it 3-2 with his 10th of the season at 7:40. It was his second straight game with a goal.
NOTES: Iginla’s goal was No. 601 and tied him with Jari Kurri for 18th all-time. … Colorado D Erik Johnson (knee) is expected to miss at least one more week. He was injured in Monday’s win over Los Angeles. … Nashville D Anthony Bitetto was in the lineup for the first time since Oct. 28. … Avalanche D Brandon Gormley cleared waivers but has yet to be assigned to San Antonio of the AHL.