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Predators Top Oilers 3-1

For a little guy, Cliff Ronning sure makes a lot of big plays for the Nashville Predators.

The 5-foot-8 center was the smallest player on the ice Sunday, but his power-play goal with 1:20 left snapped a 1-1 tie and sent the Predators to a 3-1 victory over the Edmonton Oilers.

"You're put in a situation in the game where it is do-or-die," said Ronning, who has 18 goals and 51 points since coming to Nashville from the Phoenix Coyotes on Oct. 31. "You want to put the puck in the net to help your team win."

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  • When Nashville general manager David Poile made the deal for Ronning, he said of his undersized club: "I probably made the only trade I could that would have made us smaller."

    With Oilers defenseman Janne Niinimaa in the penalty box for roughing, Ronning fired a wrist shot from the right circle that beat rookie goaltender Steve Passmore.

    "The turning point was that stupid penalty," said Oilers coach Ron Low, whose team has lost a season-high four straight games. "To take that penalty in a 1-1 game with 2:30 to go is dumb."

    The Oilers had just failed to cash in on their own late power play when Ronning scored. They went 0-for-5 with the man advantage.

    "We didn't score on our power play and they did," Edmonton forward Bill Guerin said. "That was the difference in the game."

    It was the second time in 24 hours the Oilers led by a goal going into the final period, gave up an early tying goal, and then lost.

    Ronning also hurt Edmonton by winning 9 of 10 faceoffs, and the Predators outshot the Oilers 9-6 in the third period.

    Sebastien Bordeleau, who has six goals and 12 points in the last six games, scored the final goal into an empty net for his career-high 14th of the season. He also got the tying goal for the Predators, who did all their scoring in the thid period.

    Mike Dunham made 24 saves as Nashville moved within six points of Edmonton for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

    "It was a playoff game," Predators captain Tom Fitzgerald said. "We are chasing them. Our goal is to get in the playoffs, and they are in the way."

    In the previous three games between the teams, the expansion Predators had only led for a total of only 85 seconds.

    Edmonton's Josef Beranek opened the scoring with his 19th goal early in the first period. After Nashville's Darren Turcotte and John Slaney collided and fell down in the right circle, Pat Falloon came off the right boards and spotted Beranek all alone at the left post.

    Turcotte, who just returned to Nashville's lineup Friday after missing the previous 24 games with a torn knee ligament, strained his knee on the play and did not return.

    Oilers defenseman Roman Hamrlik rang a slap shot off the post at the start of the second period.

    "We had chances to bury these guys early," Low said.

    Bordeleau tied it 36 seconds into the third period. He took Fitzgerald's pass in the right circle, and fired a slap shot by Passmore's stick.

    "It was sort of like no one wanted to go by the blue line in the first period," Predators coach Barry Trotz said. "There was a little bit of desperation (in the third period). We were able to create some loose pucks, and the first goal was off a good forecheck."

    Despite the loss, Edmonton earned its first win of a season series ever against a first-year expansion club. The Oilers had gone 0-4-4 against first-year teams since coming into the NHL themselves as an expansion club in 1979-80.

    Edmonton finished 2-1-1 against Nashville this season.

    ©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed