Predators shock Lightning

Monday, February 19, 2001 at 1:00am

The Nashville Predators struck faster than a lightning bolt in the third period to score a pair of goals and defeat Tampa Bay.

Goals by Scott Walker on a power play at the 11:23 mark and a goal by Rob Valicevic at 11:44 gave the Predators a much needed 3-2 come-from-behind victory over the Lightning who are on a pace to become the first NHL team to lose 50 or more games for four seasons in a row. "It's happened so fast it's a blur," Valicevic said of his game winner. "We just started working harder and harder.

"We came out a little sluggish in the first period. The 20 guys in here just pulled it together.

"We knew we had to win two points. You can see they are getting harder and harder to get because everyone needs them."

A crowd of 15,260 fans watched the game at the Gaylord Entertainment Center Sunday afternoon. The Los Angeles Kings lost 3-0 to Chicago Sunday, putting the Predators in a tie for ninth place with 59 points.

The game started at 5, but the Predators' alarm clocks didn't go off until around 6:30 as coach Barry Trotz gave them a rousing wakeup call between the first and second periods. Trotz admitted he was a little surprised to see his team start out so sluggishly after losing their last three.

"We talked the last couple of days how important it is to get back on track," Trotz said. "We've played some good teams, and we've actually played pretty well. We just couldn't generate enough to get any points.

"Take nothing away from Tampa Bay. They played real hard. They've got real quick forwards. But we played sloppy and we had some guys that we count on who didn't play very well. We straightened that out."

Walker leads the Predators with 18 goals. Patric Kjellberg, who picked up an assist on Walker's goal, tied the game at 1-1 at 10:38 of the second period with his 11th goal of the season.

"I just try to create room, helping my teammates out and scoring myself , of course," Kjellberg said. "I want to create room for my teammates. That's the style I've played for 13 years."

The Lightning struck first when right winger Martin St. Louis scored at the 15:41 mark of the first period. Left winger Nils Ekman put the Lightning ahead 2-1 at 15:29 of the second period. Both goals were unassisted.

"I thought we had the game for sure," said Tampa Bay goalie Kevin Weekes. "I didn't feel any negative energy...no sense of anything creeping up on us. I thought we would win based on the way the game went and the energy before the game."

After giving up seven shots in the first period, the Predators held the Lightning to six in the second and three in the third while the Predators had 10, 12 and 12.

"Tampa Bay has never lost in this building," Trotz said. "It's pretty easy to get down when you're working and getting chances and not getting rewarded for it. Getting chances and not scoring can be deflating to a team."

"We had some good character. That might have been a step we needed to take that we have never had to take before. The chances were pretty one-sided after the first period."

The Predators finish this homestand Tuesday night when the Detroit Red Wings come to town. The face-off is at 7.

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