-- Growing up in West Seneca, N.Y., Chris Mueller
vividly remembers watching J-P Dumont score hat tricks for the hometown Buffalo Sabres a decade ago.
On Tuesday night, the 24-year-old center had a much better view of Dumont's first hat trick in nearly 10 years
Mueller and fellow rookie Matt Halischuk each had pair of assists as their new linemate scored his third, fourth and fifth goals in the last two games and to help the Predators put away the Phoenix Coyotes 5-2 at Jobing.com Arena. The Predators won for the eighth time in 10 games and jumped over the Coyotes to take fourth place in the Western Conference.
"It's great for me to see J-P have a great night and awesome to play a part in it," said Mueller - playing in his ninth NHL game but a grizzled veteran compared to Halischuk, who notched his first two NHL points in his second game. "We were looking for him because we know he's a goal-scorer. You can see just the last two games how he knows how to score and we're happy to set him up."
Patric Hornqvist added two goals as the Predators handed the Coyotes their second home loss in as many days
Dumont scored twice in Sunday's loss to Chicago and now has one more goal in the last two games than he had in the first 44 games this season. It was his third career hat trick and first in almost a decade - dating back to Nov. 12, 2001, when Mueller might have tuned in to see Buffalo beat Florida.
"My two young lineys are really playing some good hockey. The first goal was off a great forecheck by them and it really got me going," Dumont said. "The team has been playing well, but it's been frustrating for me personally. You want more goals and more points and now they are starting to come."
Pekka Rinne made 32 saves and allowed two goals or less for the 15th time in his last 19 starts to get the win. Meanwhile, Phoenix goalie Ilya Bryzgalov was the NHL's third star last week but didn't look anything like it Tuesday as Nashville scored five times on just 21 shots - including goals by Dumont and Hornqvist 12 seconds apart in the first period.
Radim Vrbata and Lee Stempniak scored for Phoenix, which had climbed to fourth place in the Western Conference with four straight wins and a 6-0-2 run. But a loss to San Jose on Monday and Tuesday's defeat pushed the Coyotes to sixth, behind Nashville and Anaheim.
"We're making far too many errors and our whole game is out of sync here the last two games," coach Dave Tippett said. "We chased the puck (in a 4-2 loss to San Jose on Monday) and we chased it again tonight. That is not who we are going to be if we are going to win on a consistent basis."
The Coyotes dominated the first period statistically, taking 10 of the game's first 14 shots and forcing the game's first two penalties with constant pressure. But the Predators needed only 12 seconds of daylight to put Phoenix in a 2-0 hole.
Dumont was left alone in the slot when Mueller won a battle behind the net and served up a centering pass at 8:16. Just 12 seconds later, Hornqvist hit a Coyote with a centering pass, but ran down the puck himself and flipped a backhander past Bryzgalov to put the Coyotes down two.
Phoenix caught a break to briefly turn its luck. Rinne seemed to have stopped Vrbata's carom shot off the backboards, but it squirted out of his glove. Defenseman Shane O'Brien tried to pin the puck between Rinne and the post, but wound up pushing it over the goal line at 10:31 and Phoenix had only its third power-play goal in the last 35 tries. Less than four minutes later, Stempniak was alone in front of the crease and available to tip Adrian Aucoin's slap-pass around Rinne to get Phoenix even.
But Dumont struck at 11:25 and 17:35 of the second period to restore the Predators' two-goal lead. Nashville didn't have another shot for the next 16 minutes, until Hornqvist put the game away with his 15th of the season with 5:31 to play.
"I give J.P. some credit, lately his ice time has been reduced when he really went through a dry spell," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "I asked him to do a couple of things differently … to adjust his game to the way it's played now and not the way it was plated 10 years ago."
Defenseman Michal Rozsival, acquired last week from the New York Rangers, made his debut for the Coyotes and took the place of David Schlemko, who was placed on IR with a head injury after a hit from San Jose's Scott Nichol on Monday. The NHL suspended Nichol four games for the hit.