|Photo by John Russell
Vern Fiddler (left) and Ryan Suter
congratulate Steve Sullivan (right) on his hat trick as hats litter the ice.
Steve Sullivan posted a second-period hat trick to give the Nashville Predators a 6-0 lead over the Ottawa Senators that the home club converted into its 20th win Thursday night at the Gaylord Entertainment Center. The Predators' top three goal scorers accounted for all six tallies and goaltender Chris Mason made 22 stops for his ninth win of the season and fifth shutout of his career.
The victory improves Nashville's record to 20-8-3 and 8-1-3 on home ice. The Predators are 5-0-0 against Eastern Conference teams this season. In total, seven Nashville players posted multiple-point performances Thursday, with Sullivan, Paul Kariya and J.P. Dumont registering three points each.
"We did what we do best," Predators head coach Barry Trotz said. "We skated, we worked, we created chances, we moved the puck effectively. We were dangerous all night. When you do that, you can blow games open."
In the first period, team goal leader Scott Hartnell scored his 12th and 13th of the season--the first coming on the power play--while rookie winger Alexander Radulov added his 10th goal in 18 games. Sullivan then lit the lamp at 5:58, 9:21, and 11:54 of the second period. Sullivan's second strike was Nashville's second power-play marker of the night. The Predators went two for six with the man advantage in the game, though two other goals came within three seconds of a power-play's expiration.
"Our power play I think is close to top 10 in the league, so it's not as if it was struggling," Sullivan said. "We just see that it hasn't been as good as it's been when we compare it to last year's power play. I think all the pieces were there. We're working on a lot of different things. Tonight was one of those nights where a lot of them clicked."
Sullivan was back in the lineup for the first time since missing two games with a groin injury. Forward Jason Arnott also returned to the lineup for the Predators after missing 11 games with a knee injury. He lined up between Sullivan and Dumont and assisted on Sullivan's first two goals.
"I felt good," Sullivan said moments after being recognized as the game's first star. "The legs felt really good after sitting for four or five days. My legs were under me early. J.P.'s been playing very well as of late, so 'Arnie' and I knew we had a [fallback], a guy that we could count on to be solid tonight. J.P. played a really terrific hockey game. He made it real easy for 'Arnie' and I to come back in."
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty
Rookie Alexander Radulov scored his 10th goal in his 18th NHL game Thursday night.
Nashville led 3-0 entering the second period, and Mason turned aside a series of early Senators shots to prevent the visitors from stealing any momentum. Specifically, Trotz saw Mason's stop on Chris Kelly's chance from the slot at the 3:30 mark as a turning point in the game. "We had a defensive breakdown, just a [mis]read between our center and our defense," Trotz said. "[Ottawa] popped the puck behind the net, then right to the slot and there was no one around. 'Mase' made a real big save there. At that point, it could have made it 3-1. It could have been a different game. We recovered from that--big save--and in the next minute and a half we came down, scored to make it 4-0 and after that we sort of blew it open."
That fourth goal came after Arnott went into the right corner of the Senators' zone, outmuscled an opponent and came away with the puck. He sent a pass up the right wall to Dumont, who took a stride into the right circle and faked a shot before sliding the puck the width of the ice to Sullivan. Sullivan was ready and waiting for the pass, catching and releasing the puck in one motion to send it into a gaping net mouth from his position low in the left circle at 5:58.
"What a great play by J.P. Dumont that throws everybody," Trotz said. "Everybody thought he was shooting and he finds 'Sully' back door."
Nashville went on the power play less than three minutes later, and Sullivan again capped off a beautiful passing play to score. Defenseman Ryan Suter faked a shot from high in the zone then passed to Arnott, who one-touched the puck through the slot to Dumont on the right side. Dumont centered for Sullivan, who whipped a one-timer on net and beat Emery high to the glove side to make it 5-0 at 9:21.
A holding call against defenseman Joe Corvo 30 seconds later put Ottawa a man down again. Just as Corvo stepped out of the penalty box after serving two minutes, Sullivan and Dumont executed a cross-ice give-and-go play that saw the puck travel from the left face-off dot to the right face-off dot to the low left circle. From there Sullivan drove home what amounted to an empty-net goal, with Ottawa's defense and goaltender left badly out of position. Again, Dumont showed shot before returning the puck to Sullivan.
"I've got to give credit to J.P. Dumont," Sullivan said. "All three of them were [me] just trying to get open and him giving me some empty netters. He sees the ice tremendously well. He's known as a pure goal scorer but his vision is very good on the ice. He holds on to the puck, waits for guys to open up and makes great passes. So two of my three goals were absolute empty netters."
Photo by John Russell
Scott Hartnell's second goal of the game--a tap-in set up by Paul Kariya--resembled his first tally and gave him a team-high 13 goals this season.
For the 16th time in 31 games this season, Nashville led after 20 minutes of play. Kariya and Martin Erat set up both of Hartnell's goals, the first coming at 8:40 and the second at 14:38. Radulov scored on a rebound of a blast by defenseman Shea Weber at 18:30, fishing out the loose puck from a scramble in front and sliding it beneath Emery just before the netminder laid down flat to cover the crease.
On the first goal, Kariya and Erat executed a give-and-go play in the right corner of Ottawa's zone. The close passing play allowed Kariya time and space to backhand the puck across the top of the crease for Harntell's easy tap into the open left side of the net. On the second goal, Erat carried the puck from left to right behind the Senators net and dished to Kariya stationed on the right wall. Kariya wired a pass to the tape of Hartnell's stick in front for another redirection past Emery. That goal came just two seconds after a hooking penalty to Senators blueliner Chris Phillips expired.
"Both those goals, the defenseman didn't even see the puck going by him," Hartnell said. "It was in the net before they knew it. [Kariya] made some great passes."
Kariya was also credited with the second assist on Radulov's goal, giving him three helpers in the game.
"I thought we moved the puck really well," Kariya said. "The power play moved the puck well. Obviously getting 'Sully' and 'Arnie' back helped out a lot. But it was a good win and 'Mase,' it was nice for him to get a shutout. He played extremely well for us."
In addition to their power-play tallies, the Predators also killed two Ottawa manpower advantages in the early going and a third in the final period. The game was physical at times, as Nashville outhit the Senators 14 to 10 and Predators forward Darcy Hordichuk dropped the gloves with Senators forward Chris Neil 5:44 into the game.
Next up for Nashville is a home-and-home series against the St. Louis Blues. It begins Saturday night with a 7:00 p.m. tilt at the Gaylord Entertainment Center, then moves to the Scottrade Center for a 5:00 p.m. contest Sunday. For tickets, order online, call 615-770-PUCK, or visit any Ticketmaster outlet including the GEC box office.
NOTES: Steve Sullivan's natural hat trick--meaning he scored all three goals in a row--set a new franchise record for the fastest three goals scored by an individual. Sullivan accomplished the feat in a 5:56 span. The hat trick was the sixth of his career and third as a Predator. It was his fourth three-point performance of the season. His second goal was his first power-play goal of the season... J.P. Dumont posted three assists and now has five helpers in the last two games. This was his fifth multi-point performance of the season... Chris Mason recorded Nashville's fourth shutout of the season and his second of 2006-07... Alexander Radulov has eight goals in the last 11 games... Scott Hartnell's two goals Thursday give him eight tallies over the past 11 games as well... Paul Kariya recorded his third three-assist game of the season. It was his eighth multi-point performance this season... Jason Arnott registered two assists in his first game since Nov. 20... Martin Erat posted two assists and now has six helpers over the past four games... Nashville won at home by a 6-0 margin for the second time this season. The first was a Thursday night too--Nov. 23 against the Vancouver Canucks... The Predators penalty killers were a perfect 3 for 3 vs. Ottawa and have successfully killed 51 of the last 56 power plays against over the past 13 games... Nashville has outscored opponents 37-23 in the first period and 46-18 in the second period this season... Ottawa goaltender Martin Gerber replaced Ray Emery after Nashville's sixth goal. He stopped all 19 shots he faced... Jerred Smithson and Jordin Tootoo were scratches for the Predators.