The Nashville Predators extended their winning streak to five games with a 3-1 win over the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on Friday night. It was a good road win against a team that has had no luck during the entire season.
For the third time in a week, the Predators managed to play a controlled game against a bottom three Eastern Conference team without falling victim to a “trap” game.
Martin Erat scored two power play goals including the game winner while Ryan Suter had the primary assist on both goals for his own two-point night. The Predators’ first goal came from Steve Sullivan. The Devils’ only goal came from Mattias Tedenby.
Anders Lindback was rarely pressured as he stopped 15 of 16 New Jersey shots improving his record to 9-1-2. Martin Brodeur did not have his best game, giving up three goals on 20 shots as his record fell to 5-13-1.
The Predators managed to play even with the Devils for most of the first period. They had a couple of scares, once fairly early when Lindback tried to catch a puck in his glove away from the net and then at 18:25 Rod Pelley hit the post on the open side of the goal.
The Predators broke through with 16.3 seconds in the period when Shea Weber put a shot on goal from the blue line that was tipped by Sullivan and it trickled past Brodeur and crossed the goal line as players from both teams were diving for it.
Offense was almost non-existent in the opening period as the Preds out shot the Devils 5-4 while the Devils led the Corsi 15-9. Both teams has a power play opportunity and neither had a shot on goal.
The Predators struck again at 4:56 in the second when Erat fired a fairly easy shot at net that Brodeur simply missed with his glove to put the Preds ahead 2-0. It was a power play goal as Pelley had tripped Alexander Sulzer at 3:11.
Steve Begin made the scorecard for the first time this year in the NHL when he was called for holding Pelley at 9:36.
The Devils had a couple of chances late in the period when Ilya Kovalchuk hit the post at 17:38 and when Lindback juggled the puck a minute later.
The second period ended with the Predators looking comfortable with a 2-0 lead as the Devils were unable to mount much offense as they only had five shots in the period compared to the Preds’ twelve.
The Predators scored their second power play goal at 4:55 in the third period when Erat passed the puck to Ryan Suter who fired the puck at the net and Erat moved back to redirect it under Brodeur’s left leg pad to give the Preds a 3-0 lead. Sergei Kostitsyn was given the secondary assist which extended his point streak to eight games, tying a franchise record.
Thirty-five seconds after the goal, Colin Wilson was called for hooking to give the Devils a man advantage. At 7:06 Tedenby fired a shot from the left circle that sailed high over Lindback for a power play water-bottle goal to cut the Predator lead to 3-1.
The Devils played their best hockey of the game down the stretch firing puck from all angles and putting pressure on the Preds defense who were trapped on the ice for over 90 seconds until Langenbrunner was called for interference for grabbing Lindback stick at 18:45.
The Devils outshot the Predators 7-3 in the third period while the Preds led 20-16 for the game in a defensive struggle.
Much was made of the Devil’s injury situation but the Preds’ missing player list consisting of David Legwand, Patric Hornqvist, Matthew Lombardi, Cody Franson, and Pekka Rinne was much more impressive than the Devils’ injury group. Steve Begin played 10 shifts for a total of 7:47 in ice time in his first game as a Predator.
The Predators are 8-0-1 in the last nine games and tied a franchise record of having points in ten straight games. The Preds are now 17-8-6 and have 40 points which is the second highest total in the Western Conference. They were only three points behind Detroit as the game ended.
The Predators face a different challenge now, as they will be flying home to face the Los Angeles on Saturday. The Kings practiced in Nashville on Friday and were taking in a relaxing night on lower Broadway while the Preds were a thousand miles away playing hockey. Game time is 7 p.m. and tickets are still available.