It has become a common occurrence at the Sommet Center in recent days. Not long after a referee raises his arm to signal a penalty against the visiting team the home crowd throws up its collective hands in celebration.
It happened again twice Monday, when the Nashville Predators hosted their division rivals, the Detroit Red Wings, in a nationally televised contest. Jason Arnott and Martin Erat both scored on the power play, the latter just as time expired on the advantage.
Those were the Predators’ first two goals and ultimately were enough that the 14,410 in attendance had other reasons to applaud – namely a 3-1 victory, a six-game win streak and a move up in the standings to one point in front of the Red Wings.
“We have some high options, we have some low options and we have some things in between,” coach Barry Trotz said. “The power play has been real effective for us. It’s been huge on this homestand.”
Nashville (13-8-1, 27 points) has scored eight power-play goals (on 24 attempts) in the last five games – all at home. Before that, it had just seven in 63 tries over 17 contests.
The next game is Wednesday at Colorado, and after that it’s three more at home in a span of four days.
“The power play is something we said needed to make a difference,” defenseman Shea Weber said. “It didn’t at the start of the year, but right now it’s clicking. I think that is the big difference right now – confidence.”
Arnott put the Predators in front 1-0 when he stuffed home his own rebound at 10:24 of the first period.
It was his seventh goal overall, fourth on the power play (both team-highs) and his fourth in the last three games. He scored it just 39 seconds after the first penalty was called against the Red Wings – Todd Bertuzzi for interference.
Erat, who also scored Nashville’s only even-strength goal, one-timed a pass from Joel Ward and made it 2-0 at 1:41 of the second period, just as the second Detroit penalty – a hooking call against Tomas Holmstrom – was set to expire.
“I thought they took over the game there for a little bit when they scored on the power play,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. “… I didn’t like their second power-play goal.”
The Red Wings (11-7-4, 26 points) managed to dodge the bullet on two subsequent violations (also against Bertuzzi and Holmstrom, coincidentally) and closed to within one (2-1) on a goal by Drew Miller at 6:38 of the second.
“When (the power play) started clicking, we started getting some points,” goalie Pekka Rinne said. “Right now, they’ve been red hot. … It’s been huge for us.”
Rinne, in his sixth straight appearance, was the one who came up big in the third period.
Detroit unloaded 16 shots on net over the final 20 minutes after having been limited to 15 through the first two periods. Another 13 attempts were blocked in that period and seven more missed the net, some by the slimmest of margins.
“I don’t know what it was,” Arnott said. “(We) just panicked. … They just kept it in the zone. It’s one of those teams that plays with the puck a lot.
“They were all over us. If it wasn’t for (Rinne) we probably would have ended up losing the game.”
Of course, if not for the power play they would not have been in the lead.
• Rinne improved to 10-4-0 on the season and won for the 40th time in his career. He joined Tomas Vokoun (161 wins), Mike Dunham (81) and Chris Mason (58) as the only goalies ever to win 40 or more for Nashville.
He also has won six straight, which is one short of the franchise record held by Vokoun, who won seven in a row twice.
• With two goals, Erat doubled his season total, and he took a season-high five shots to get them. His last multi-goal game was Oct. 18, 2008, the sixth game of last season.
“I had a lot of great chances to shoot the puck (Monday) night,” he said. “… I was luckey enough to get two (goals).”
• Nashville improved to 15-15-2 all-time at home against Detroit.
The Predators have outscored the Red Wings 92-90 all-time in games at Sommet Center.