Martin Erat's hat trick leads Nashville to 4-2 win over Vancouver

This is the type of game that David Poile and Barry Trotz have been referring to when talking about Martin Erat developing into an offensive leader for the Nashville Predators. With an empty-net goal, Erat completed just his 2nd career hat trick as the Preds knocked off the Vancouver Canucks 4-2 in a hard-fought game.

After the jump you can check out the video highlights, recap, and advanced even-strength statistics...

This was easily Erat's best game this season; he was opportunistic (banking in his first goal from behind the net), showed great speed (as on the breakaway that led to his second goal) and moved the puck decisively (shown on the power play goal by Hornqvist midway through the 3rd). If Nashville can get him scoring on a consistent basis, it could add enough punch to make the Preds a more dangerous team over the long haul of the regular season. In his last four games, the Czech winger now has 5 goals and 3 assists.

Erat wasn't the only star, however. Pekka Rinne was very solid, stopping 34 of 36 Vancouver shots and giving up very few rebound opportunities. Ryan Kesler and Daniel Sedin each scored once and led the charge up front, with 8 and 6 shots apiece. Steve Sullivan and Jason Arnott each got two assists as the new top line of Erat, Arnott and Sullivan provided constant pressure. The game-winning goal came on a slick tic-tac-toe passing play that led to an easy tap-in for Patric Hornqvist, his first score since November 12 at St. Louis.

Jerred Smithson was sent off in the 2nd period, receiving a major and a game misconduct for a hit on Alex Burrows. The refs called it Charging, but it was basically Boarding; a shoulder-to-shoulder hit that spun Burrows nastily into the dasher from a couple feet out. Burrows shook it off and was back in action two minutes later, but initially the hit looked pretty dangerous.

A Hornqvist penalty a few minutes later led to a 5-on-3 power play for Vancouver, and a goal for Kesler. In general the Nashville penalty killing was very strong. Team discipline also played a factor, as the Preds enjoyed 5 power plays to Vancouver's 4 (and one of those lasted only 1 second due to overlapping penalties).

In the third, Nashville stretched their lead to 3-1 on the Hornqvist power play goal, but the Canucks drew to within 3-2 as Daniel Sedin scored just after killing a penalty. From there on it was mostly about the Preds playing it safe with the puck and waiting for Vancouver to pull Roberto Luongo out of the next for the extra attacker, after which Erat completed his hat trick. It was the first hat trick for Nashville since February 28, when Jason Arnott pulled off the feat in the memorable 8-0 victory over Detroit.

Looking at the advanced even-strength stats, Shea Weber and Ryan Suter had strong efforts (Shea playing for the hometown fans watching on TV back in BC?), as did the new third line of Jordin Tootoo, Marcel Goc, and J.P. Dumont. David Legwand and Joel Ward had the tough task of dealing with the Sedins, and were able to minimize the damage despite giving up a fair portion of shots. Alexander Sulzer looked fine in his first NHL action since November 7 at Los Angeles.

 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
 Martin Erat R 14:24 1 0 2 0 9 6 3 16 8 8
 Jason Arnott C 15:28 0 2 0 0 8 8 0 16 12 4
 Steve Sullivan L 14:31 0 0 1 1 8 6 2 19 9 10
 David Legwand C 13:48 1 1 1 2 5 8 -3 13 21 -8
 Jerred Smithson R 7:32 0 0 0 0 1 3 -2 2 8 -6
 Joel Ward R 13:29 1 0 0 0 3 10 -7 8 21 -13
 Marcel Goc C 12:20 0 1 1 2 5 6 -1 16 11 5
 Jordin Tootoo R 8:41 0 0 2 0 2 6 -4 12 9 3
 J P Dumont R 10:14 2 2 1 0 4 5 -1 16 8 8
 Cal O'Reilly C 7:27 0 0 0 0 2 5 -3 4 9 -5
 Patric Hornqvist R 8:31 3 0 0 1 3 6 -3 5 11 -6
 Ryan Jones L 8:06 0 0 0 0 4 3 1 9 9 0
 Shea Weber D 18:23 2 4 2 0 8 7 1 23 11 12
 Ryan Suter D 17:17 2 0 1 1 8 8 0 23 13 10
 Kevin Klein D 15:10 0 0 1 1 2 8 -6 7 18 -11
 Francis Bouillon D 14:09 1 3 2 1 8 9 -1 17 17 0
 Dan Hamhuis D 16:32 0 0 1 3 3 11 -8 8 23 -15
 Alexander Sulzer D 10:05 3 0 0 0 6 5 1 11 10 1
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