Martin Erat netted the game-winning goal with just 22.2 seconds remaining in regulation to lift the Nashville Predators to a 6-5 victory in a wild, up-tempo affair against the Ottawa Senators at Scotiabank Place on Thursday night. Erat’s winner, his team-leading fourth of the season, came a mere 23 seconds after Daniel Alfredsson had presumably destined the contest for overtime with goal of his own to tie the game at five apiece.
“It was an entertaining game, and the guys worked hard all night,” assistant coach Peter Horachek said. “It can get frustrating when you want to play good defensively, but we received great responses to goals – huge goals less that minute after they had scored. Those timely responses, led us to a big win on the road.”
The line of Erat, Jason Arnott, and J.P. Dumont were solid for the Preds all night, combining for nine points (2g-7a). Dumont paced the squad with a four-point night (1g-3a), leaving him with six points (1g-5a) in the last three outings, while Erat’s goal and pair of assists gives him 18 points (8g-10a) in his last 13 games.
“That game was one of those games that feels like it is in slow motion because I was moving and seeing the puck so well,” Dumont said. “In a game like that you just try to keep composure, stay focused, and bounce back after every goal. We were able to do that and tonight was a huge road win for us.”
The back end stepped it up as well, providing half of Nashville’s offense. Coming into tonight’s game, the defensive corps had accounted for just four goals, but Dan Hamhuis, Greg de Vries and Ryan Suter helped to bolster that total against the Senators.
“It was nice to get contributions from the ‘d,’ but they have been involved all season long even though they don’t always show up on the stats sheet," Horachek said. "They got a couple of rebound goals, and de Vries fired a great shot so it is great to see them get some numbers.”
Despite being idle for four days, there was no rust on the Predators’ legs, as they took advantage of an early penalty to score the game’s first goal just 44 seconds into the match. Twenty seconds after Alfredsson was whistled for high sticking, Dumont fired a slap shot while breaking in up the left side. His shot was blocked, but ricocheted directly onto Hamhuis’ stick. With goalie Martin Gerber focused on the initial drive, the Nashville defender had virtually an empty net to shoot at.
The marker was Hamhuis’ first since opening night, and the Preds third power-play tally in the last 11 tries.
Nashville continued to earn the majority of the contest’s early chances, with the most notable coming via an Arnott partial-breakaway chance at 9:55. But, the Preds captain failed to convert, and Ottawa turned around and scored a goal of its own just 18 ticks later.
Joe Corvo was the author of the Sens first tally, blasting a rocket from the top of the point that went untouched through a screen in front, and into the back of the net.
After surviving the Senators first power play of the evening at 13:12, which included back-to-back 50-goal scorer Dany Heatley solidly striking post, the Preds received another marker off a blueliner’s stick to take a 2-1 advantage at 16:37.
de Vries, a former Sen himself, got the goal – his first as a Predator – beating Gerber with a quick wrister to the blocker side. Dumont set him up with a savvy backhander from his knees, and Arnott did the initial dirty work, winning a battle in the corner.
Both teams came out with a jump in their step as the second commenced, but the early goings were highlighted by turnovers and sloppy play that led to oh-so-close chances on both ends. Eventually, a scrum in front of Nashville goalie Dan Ellis at 8:19 left both sides skating four aside, setting the stage for Ottawa’s second goal.
With the extra room to operate by having only eight total skaters on the rink, Ottawa’s Randy Robitaille setup at the right point and fired a heavy drive on net that Ellis stopped, but saw the rebound put by him by Anton Vermette at 10:03.
The Predators celebrate Martin Erat's game-winning goal at the 19:37 mark of the third period.
Upon killing the lone man advantage of the period – a call for too many men at 16:15 – the Predators gained the momentum necessary to bear down in the Ottawa zone and take a one-goal lead into the locker room for the second intermission.
Dumont continued his productive evening, but instead of setting up a goal, he lit the lamp with a shot of his own. At 18:32, Dumont broke away from traffic in front and put an Erat offering past the Senators netminder high glove side. Erat’s team-leading 15th assist came on a feed from behind the Ottawa net, while Arnott also collected his second helper of the night on the marker.
“Marty was good and J.P. had a great game so it was great to see them get on track again,” Horachek said. The carried us offensively, but the Bonk line played fantastic as well shutting down their high-powered number one line and limiting their chances.”
Heatley got his revenge at 2:47 of the third, knotting the game at three apiece on a backhander from the edge of the crease. Shean Donovan collected the primary assist, redirecting a Dean McAmmond centering feed to an uncovered Heatley driving to the net.
It didn’t take long for the Predators to respond though, reclaiming the lead just 1:03 later on the third marker of the night by a d-man. This time it was Suter who did the honors, capitalizing on a rebound – just like Hamhuis had done earlier. Immediately after Erat gained the blue line carrying the puck, Suter drove the net. When the Preds leading scorer threw one on net, Suter was in perfect position to flip home the second-chance opportunity.
Suter now has points in each of the past three games (1g-3a).
Nashville continued to utilize an aggressive forecheck as the third progressed, and used it to create a bit of luck, and a two-goal lead, at the 8:39 mark. Scott Nichol sparked the goal, pick-pocketing a Senator defender behind his own net and throwing the puck in front. Martin Gelinas partially fanned on the centering feed, but was credited with the Preds fifth goal when the rubber disk deflected off Andrej Meszaros and past Gerber.
The third-period flurry of goals continued at 11:39 on a deflection off Jason Spezza’s stick from the top of the crease. Wade Redden fired the initial shot from the top of the right face-off circle, and a screen prevented Ellis from ever seeing the puck.
Greg Zanon rubs out Wade Redden along the far boards during second period.
Teams continued the frantic pace in the final minute of regulation, with most of the chances coming in Nashville’s zone. Ottawa called a timeout with 52 seconds remaining, and used the break to draw up the game-tying goal, which came just seven seconds later. Immediately following the puck drop, Alfredsson walked in from the right side and ladled one into the roof of the net to send the crowd into a frenzy.
But, the craziness was far from over. The resilient Predators march right back down the ice, and instead of being a deflated, disheartened crew, they grabbed the lead right back at 19:37 thanks once again to Arnott, Erat and Dumont. On a complete-line effort, Dumont stole the puck from McAmmond below the Ottawa goal line, broke loose, and lasered one to Erat in the left face-off circle. With Arnott providing a screen, Erat snuck one past Gerber’s glove for the game winner, ending the wildest affair the Predators’ 07-08 slate thus far.
Nashville edged Ottawa on both the shot clock and on special teams, outshooting it 35-32, and finishing 1-for-3 with the man advantage, while holding the Sens scoreless on two attempts.
The Predators will now catch a bus to Montreal, where they will play the Canadiens on Saturday at 6 p.m. CT. The contest, which is Nashville’s first in the Canadiens home barn since Dec. 18, 2003, will be broadcasted on both FSN South and WGFX-104.5 The Zone.
“This is a great way to start off the road trip,” Horachek said. “These are hard places to play, and I am proud of guys responding the way they did tonight.”
Game Notes: Nashville scratched Ville Koistinen, Kevin Klein and Darcy Hordichuk from the lineup, while Ottawa sat Patrick Eaves and Brian McGratton… Dan Ellis made his first start in net since Nov. 2 at Edmonton, a span of 10 games… Nashville is 3-0-0 against the Eastern Conference this year, 10-0-1 when scoring the first goal of the game and 5-4 in one-goal contests… The Preds have outshot their opponent in six of the past seven outings… Jason Arnott finished with a game-high plus-3 rating and six shots on net… Dan Hamhuis led the Predators in ice time (22:14)... Nashville is now 10-3-2 since Oct. 25.