Martin Erat's shootout goal gives Nashville 3-2 win over New Jersey

Having come under heavy criticism for a lack of offensive production, Nashville Predators winger Martin Erat picked a fine time to score his first critical goal of the season, a shootout winner over Martin Brodeur that lifted the Preds to a 3-2 victory at the Sommet Center. The win, which was Nashville's fourth in a row, is their eighth in the last ten games and vaulted them over Vancouver into a tie with Detroit for 9th place in the Western Conference standings.

You can click the picture above for a photo gallery from tonight's contest, and after the jump, we've got the video highlights, a recap, and advanced even strength statistics...

This was a very encouraging game in that Nashville once again went toe-to-toe with an elite team, and not only hung with them, but came out victorious in the end. Pekka Rinne was outstanding in goal for the Preds, turning aside 26 of 28 shots in regular play and 2 of 3 shootout attempts. Rinne has now won 8 of his last 9 decisions. Martin Brodeur was equally sharp at the opposite end of the rink, with 26 saves as well, but making only 1 of 3 stops in the shootout.

Jason Arnott put the Predators in front early in the 1st on a clever play, knocking the stick of a Devils defenseman away and taking a quick swipe at the puck, slipping it through Brodeur who was clearly caught by surprise (interestingly, later in the game Arnott almost fell victim to the same trick in the Nashville end). New Jersey answered back just a few minutes later, however, as Colin White's long shot was tipped by Zach Parise for the goal. Parise was a constant menace all night, logging 24:03 of ice time and firing 7 shots on net.

The first period also saw Nashville take an uncharacteristic 3 penalties, all of which were killed off successfully. Jordin Tootoo was intent on getting under the skin of his opponents, and other than a flop to the ice when Patrik Elias shoved him (which resulted in coincidental minors), he did a good job of getting the Devils agitated, without comprising his team's effort at the same time.

After a scoreless second period (which did include Dainius Zubrus getting injured while blocking a Kevin Klein slap shot), the Predators took another lead on a power play goal, their third in two games. Arnott got the tally again, setting up in the slot and redirecting a feed from J.P. Dumont for the score. That lead lasted just 3:30, however, as Parise kept pace with Arnott, scoring his second goal of the game to tie it back up.

While both teams got dangerous chances down the stretch, they would head to overtime. The scariest moment for Nashville came when Dan Hamhuis, carrying the puck through the neutral zone, had to peel back to allow a teammate to avoid going offside. When he turned, he slammed right into his defense partner Cody Franson, and gave up a golden scoring chance to the Devils, but Rinne was able to make the save as Erat hustled hard to help break up the play.

In the shootout, Mike Santorelli went first for Nashville and scored (his second in two attempts this season), while David Legwand tried the infamous "Fiddler move" and missed wide of the goal. New Jerseys' Travis Zajac scored on a spin move (which was questionable, considering that shooters are supposed to keep moving forward for a valid attempt), setting up Erat for the decisive attempt. He deked, then roofed a shot over Brodeur for the winning tally, the first time all season that the Predators' highest-paid player directed a puck into an opponent's net off his own stick.

He couldn't have picked a more decisive moment to do so.

The Preds resume their home stand Saturday against the Columbus Blue Jackets, and conclude it Monday against Detroit (with a special 6:00 start). For discounted seats to those or any other home games, you can follow this link and use the special offer code "PREDS". Also, Monday's game features a special fund-raiser for the military charity Not Alone - be sure to read up on that worthy cause, and please consider making a donation.

Looking at the even-strength stats from tonight, what jumps out is that the Langenbrunner line did a pretty good job against Sullivan-Arnott-Dumont, and that the shutdown line of Ward-Legwand-Smithson did very well against Parise for New Jersey (Parise's first goal came against the Arnott line, his second came against Legwand's). Tootoo and Marcel Goc also fared well defensively. Joel Ward's six shots also bode well for a shutdown line taking the opportunity to chip in offensively as well.

 Even Strength Individual Totals Team Totals While Player Is On Ice
 Player Pos EV TOI Shots Shts Blkd Missed Shts Blocks SOG For SOG Ag SOG +/- Tot SF Tot SA Corsi
 Jason Arnott C 15:30 0 0 0 0 7 10 -3 11 14 -3
 Steve Sullivan L 15:24 2 0 1 0 7 8 -1 11 13 -2
 J P Dumont R 13:48 3 0 0 0 6 11 -5 8 15 -7
 David Legwand C 17:49 2 0 2 0 8 5 3 21 9 12
 Jerred Smithson R 14:11 0 1 3 0 5 3 2 16 7 9
 Joel Ward R 17:41 6 0 2 2 8 4 4 21 9 12
 Martin Erat R 15:05 2 1 0 1 6 6 0 15 11 4
 Michael Santorelli C 9:22 0 0 0 0 4 4 0 8 8 0
 Patric Hornqvist R 8:58 3 0 0 0 4 4 0 8 7 1
 Marcel Goc C 14:18 0 0 1 2 3 2 1 10 5 5
 Andreas Thuresson R 9:33 1 0 0 0 5 4 1 8 5 3
 Jordin Tootoo R 14:21 2 2 1 0 6 4 2 14 7 7
 Shea Weber D 19:53 1 1 2 2 10 9 1 23 15 8
 Ryan Suter D 19:59 0 0 2 0 11 8 3 24 14 10
 Kevin Klein D 20:19 1 2 0 2 8 6 2 18 13 5
 Francis Bouillon D 17:22 2 0 1 1 9 5 4 16 12 4
 Dan Hamhuis D 20:43 0 2 1 0 6 10 -4 14 13 1
 Cody Franson D 17:04 0 1 2 0 8 10 -2 13 13 0
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