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Erat's pair leads Predators to 3-1 win at New Jersey

by Mike G. Morreale /

NEWARK, N.J. -- The Nashville Predators aren't considered one of the League's top defensive teams for no reason.

As they've done numerous times throughout the course of the season, the Predators did their part in suffocating their opponent on Friday at Prudential Center. Rookie goalie Anders Lindback needed to make just 15 saves and Martin Erat scored twice as Nashville beat New Jersey 3-1 on Friday night for its fifth win in a row.

Nashville has allowed two or fewer goals in 12 of its last 15 games.

The Predators, who rank third in the League with a 2.29 goals-against average, limited the Devils to a season-low 16 shots by clogging the passing lanes while keeping shooters to the perimeter. Nashville, which began the night fourth in the Western Conference, is 8-0-2 in its last 10 games. The Devils, who generated little offense all night, failed to build on Wednesday's 3-0 victory against Phoenix.

"We didn't put the puck on the net enough tonight," coach John MacLean said. "We directed more than that there. We missed the net a lot. We had some good opportunities that we missed the net on."

Lindback needed to make just six saves in the third period on the way to improving to 6-0-1 in seven games since taking over for starter Pekka Rinne (knee surgery) on Dec. 4. He was the beneficiary of 13 blocked shots -- four by Ryan Suter -- and 13 others by the Devils that missed the net. The Predators also won 62 percent of the faceoffs, enabling them to control the puck for most of the night. In addition to his shot-blocking, Suter also finished the game with a pair of assists.

"We didn't give them a lot of momentum and it started with the draws … we had the puck a little bit more and kept it out of the hands of their dynamic forwards," Predators coach Barry Trotz said. "We frustrated them coming out of their end, forchecked well and are special teams were good. Our penalty kill did a good job against their power play."

Travis Zajac and Patrik Elias were the only two Devils' forwards credited with more than one shot -- each had two. Ilya Kovalchuk totaled 25:33 of ice time, took one shot, hit one post and missed the net three times.

The Predators denied the Devils on two of three power-play chances. The Predators, meanwhile, finished 2-for-5 with the man advantage. Nashville has killed off 48 of its last 51 disadvantages.

Steve Sullivan scored late in the first period to put Nashville ahead to stay. Erat, who came into the game with just 3 goals this season, added a power-play goal in each of the last two periods. His second, on a deflection 4:45 into the third period, made it 3-0.

"We had some timely saves and a big penalty kill in the first and then a timely goal at the end of the first," Trotz said.

Devils rookie Mattias Tedenby spoiled Lindback's bid for a third shutout in four games when he scored a power-play goal at 7:06. Tedenby took a pass from Kovalchuk and fired a wrist shot from the right circle that beat Lindback high on the short side. Zajac barely missed pulling the Devils within one on a shot from between the circles at 9:38, but Lindback smothered the attempt.

Trotz admitted he'll determine Saturday morning whether Lindback will make an eighth straight start when the Predators host the Los Angeles Kings in their fifth game in eight days. Trotz nixed any goalie controversy when asked if Lindback deserved more time when Rinne does return to the lineup.

"Anders has played extremely well to this point, but I have a history with Pekka," Trotz said. "He's got a history of playing extremely well for us as our No. 1, so he's going to come back eventually. He's been out for a few weeks, and he's our No. 1.

"The good thing is, as the season goes on here, there aren't too many teams who can go to their backup goalie and have the confidence that he can steal you a game," Trotz continued. "Not many teams can do that and that's going to be really important for us. If Anders couldn't play the way he is right now, I'm sure that we wouldn't be where we are. That will serve us well as we move forward."

MacLean pulled Martin Brodeur (17 saves) with 1:44 remaining in the third to get an extra attacker, but Jamie Langenbrunner was whistled for goalie interference with 1:15 to play, ending any advantage.

The Predators took the lead with just 16.3 seconds remaining in the first period when Sullivan deflected home a shot from the right point by defenseman Shea Weber. The puck hit the inside part of Brodeur's left pad before dribbling over the goal line. Just 1:03 earlier, Rod Pelley fired a rocket from the left circle that rang off the long-side post past Lindback. Brian Rolston had a half-empty net to shoot out but fired the rebound wide as he came barreling down the slot.

The Predators opened a 2-0 lead on Erat's first power-play goal 8:51 into the second. He beat a screened Brodeur with a sizzling wrist shot from the right circle high to the glove side.

"Everyone is just working together and playing good defense and, finally, the puck is going in for us," Erat said. "When we score three goals, we know we have a good chance to win."

Brodeur made several dazzling stops late in the second to keep the Devils within reach, including a sprawling glove save on Colin Wilson, a save on Joel Ward's rebound off the post and a stop on a blistering snap shot by Wilson with just under two minutes remaining.

Lindback's best stop of the second came when he got his glove on Elias' backhander from the high slot. He also got a break with less than three minutes left in the period when Kovalchuk stormed into the Nashville zone and ripped a shot from the slot that rang off the post to Lindback's left.

"I was lucky today a couple of times and the puck was bouncing our way," Lindback said. "Especially this game, so that's good. Our defense has been doing really well lately. The guys are doing a great job letting me take the first puck and then taking away the rebounds … their making it really easy for me."

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