Nashville Predators right wing Martin Erat is known for many parts of his game, but seldom does his physical play stand out above his other skills.
Wednesday night he and his line mates, center Mike Fisher and left wing Sergei Kostitsyn, set a physical pace early as the Predators scored two first period goals in a 2-0 shutout of the Phoenix Coyotes. A sellout crowd was on hand in Bridgestone Arena as the Predators won their first game after two losses in the Western Conference semifinals of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Coach Barry Trotz had urged the Predators top players to step up in game three and Erat was one of the players who listened.
“Marty is one of our leaders,” Trotz said. “He is determined to do the things he is capable of. He sets the example of a great leader. He was determined to get us back in the series.”
Erat created Nashville's second goal with solid work along the boards to win a puck-battle and spring the two-on-goalie down low. For his efforts he was credited with the secondary assist on Fisher’s goal, his third of the playoffs. He has one goal, the overtime forcing score in Game 1 at Phoenix. The assist was his 15th in his career in the playoffs, a franchise high.
Trotz is quick to add that Erat can, and often does, steps up whenever the style of play in a game requires him to be more physical.
“Marty doesn’t shy away,” Trotz said. “He played junior hockey out West. He played in the minors. He can kick it up.
“But over an 82-game schedule that is probably not where he needs to be. But he knows how important it is at this time of year. He stepped it up. He set the tone. When your leaders are setting the tone like they did in this game then you have a good chance to have some success.”
Fisher, who scored his first goal of the playoffs, thought that Erat played an extremely physical game.
“He is always hard on the puck,” Fisher said. “He does great things. He is good in all areas of the game. He is a great fore checker.”
Erat left no doubts in his postgame comments that the Predators had to change their approach to the game after the two losses at Phoenix.
“We wanted to show up and let them know we are still in the series,” Erat said. “We played five minutes and took five minutes off and you can’t win like that. We played 60 minutes and let them know they aren’t going to come in here and roll over us.
“I don’t change my game much. I just said to myself that I had to play harder and play better.”
Erat and Fisher have played on the same line most of the season. They bring different styles of play to the game, but they mesh well together on the ice.
“I know what he is going to do on the ice and where he is going to go,” Erat said. “It makes you feel more confident.
“Mike is a hard, grinding guy. He is a more physical guy than me. He goes hard to the corners. He is going to give you 100 percent every night and does the dirty work for me and Sergei. He inspires me and Sergei to get better every night and to be positive.”
Erat is reluctant to talk about his own style of play, but Fisher has no problems singing the praises of his line mate.
“Offensively, he creates real well because of his speed,” Fisher said. “He can kill penalties. He is great on the power play.
“We have played most of the year together. He is an easy guy to play with. He will give you the puck and he will create opportunities. He has been our go-to guy all year offensively.”
While Erat’s stats may not be overwhelming so far in eight playoff games he has never been too far away from the action.
“He generates a lot for us offensively,” Trotz said. “He has been a big part of a lot of the offense in the playoffs.
“He doesn’t have the points, but he is dangerous all of the time. That is the sign of a good player.”