Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty
Predators winger Steve Sullivan (right) scored Nashville's first goal Wednesday night to make it 1-1 in the first period.
The Nashville Predators and the Philadelphia Flyers traded third-period goals Wednesday night allowing Nashville to hold on to a one-goal lead and defeat the Flyers 3-2 at the Wachovia Center.
With the win, Nashville improves to 16-5-2 overall and 4-0-0 against Eastern Conference opponents. The Predators now move on to play the St. Louis Blues Thursday night in the second of back-to-back games.
Martin Erat scored the game-winner Wednesday at 14:51, putting Nashville ahead 3-2 just a minute and a half after R.J. Umberger tied the score for Philadelphia. Paul Kariya's forechecking pressure on defenseman Mike Rathje forced a defensize zone turnover, and a subsequent coverage breakdown left Erat alone in the slot for Kariya's feed. Erat's high shot rippled the net behind goaltender Antero Niittymaki to give Nashville the lead.
That goal put Nashville ahead for the second time in the game. In the second period, Alexander Radulov scored his third goal in three games to give the Predators a 2-1 advantage.
Radulov's fifth tally of the season was set up when defenseman Dan Hamhuis brought the puck up-ice and head-manned it to Radulov on the right wing. Radulov initally went wide on Flyers defenseman Jussi Timonen--the younger brother of Predators captain Kimmo--before cutting back to the middle at the top of the right circle. The rookie winger unleashed a wicked shot that beat Niittymaki at 6:18 of the second to put the Preds up 2-1.
"That was a big-time NHL goal," Predators head coach Barry Trotz said. "He put that top shelf. That's what he does. He's still got a few holes in his game, which we'll correct, but he's got the gift. He scores some major-league goals."
Kariya had a great chance to put Nashville on the scoreboard just :30 into the game but Niittymaki turned his partial breakaway aside. Shortly thereafter, the Flyers put the visitors on their heels a bit with solid pressure that eventually resulted in forward Mike Knuble converting the rebound of a Peter Forsberg shot to make it 1-0 at 4:52.
Steve Sullivan scored 13:32 into the first period to tie the game at 1-1. Sullivan netted the goal after nice plays by defenseman Shea Weber and linemate J.P. Dumont set the table. Weber shot from just across the Philly blue line on a rush up the ice and then sent his rebound around the end boards. Dumont retrieved the puck in the right corner and immediately backhanded a pass into the high slot where Sullivan caught and fired the puck. Niittymaki got his glove on Sullivan's bid but couldn't hold it. He inadvertently whipped the puck back to Sullivan who took a stride to the right and made no mistake with his second chance.
The Predators outshot Philadelphia in each of the first two periods but withstood a bit of a shelling in the third when the Flyers posted 11 shots to the Predators' eight. "We turned the puck over a few too many times," Trotz said of the third period. "We made some average decisions and then also from that standpoint we weren't strong on our sticks. A few times it caused them to keep the puck in the zone. We'll have to be a little bit stronger than that."
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty
Predators goaltender Chris Mason stopped 24 shots for his second straight win.
Nashville held the shot advantage for the game, 29-26, and shut down the Flyers on both of their power-play chances. The Predators went 0-for-4 with the man advantage themselves, but eliminated a lot of special teams play by staying disciplined.
"We're one of the least penalized teams in the league and we wanted to maintain that," Trotz said. "I think it's something that we'll continue to harp on all year because it's something that we take pride in."
Nashville goaltender Chris Mason stopped 24 of Philly's shots to earn his second straight win since taking the reins from injured goalie Tomas Vokoun last weekend.
"It probably wasn't our 'A' game, but give a lot of credit to Philly," Trotz said. "They play a real patient, trapping style and sometimes it's hard to generate a lot. We got through it. [Mason] gave us a solid effort. We got a big goal by Radulov. I thought that was huge. Then obviously that was a great play, Kariya over to Erat, which salted it.
"We got the win and we'll take the win. Any win on the road against any team is a big win."