Normally, the red light that comes on when an NHL team scores is cause for celebration.
For the Nashville Predators on Thursday it might as well have been a warning light because when it was illuminated, a goal by the New Jersey Devils was not far off.
There was no opportunity for the visitors to answer, though, when Martin Erat converted on the final attempt of a shootout. The result was a 3-2 Predators’ victory before 13,445 at Sommet Center, which extended their current win streak to four games.
Before Erat beat goalie Martin Brodeur with a shot just under the crossbar, Mike Santorelli scored on Nashville’s first attempt, but Travis Zajac, New Jersey’s third skater, evened the shootout, much as the Devils had done during regulation.
“For us to stick with it after they came back and tied the game was a big plus for us,” captain Jason Arnott said. “Usually, early on in the year we would have just sat back and taken it, but we held our ground and kept pushing forward.”
Arnott scored twice, once in the first period and once in the third, and became the fourth Nashville player this season with five goals. Both times, the Devils responded in fewer than four minutes with goals by Zach Parise.
Arnott put the Predators in front 1-0 at 4:44 of the first period, but Parise tied the score 3:51 later. Then when Arnott made it 2-1 with a power-play goal 1:09 into the third, Parise needed just 3:30 to make it 2-2.
“It’s a tough team to play against,” J.P. Dumont, who had two assists, said. “When you have the lead, 2-1, you don’t know what to expect – if they’re going to come hard at you or sit back. … They play with confidence, and that’s a big aspect of the game.
“We played our kind of game. It was a shootout, but it was a big two points.”
Those offensive outburts were the exception in an otherwise decidedly defensive contest.
The teams combined for 49 shots on goal in regulation – 24 by the Predators, 25 by the Devils. That was a far cry from the 63 two nights earlier in Nashville’s victory over San Jose or the 55 the Predators had by themselves last Saturday against Montreal.
“It was actually good for us to play a team (against which) you have to be a little more patient and you have to sort of work for every inch,” coach Barry Trotz said. “They don’t give you a whole lot, so you have to work for those inches.”
One thing about this game that was similar to the Predators’ last one was that it came against a top team in the conference. San Jose was the Western Conference leader, and New Jersey came in second in points, but tied for the most victories in the Eastern Conference.
The Devils have just two regulation losses in their last 14 contests.
“They’re always a very tough opponent to play,” Arnott said. “We just kind of stuck with it and stuck with it. Going into a shootout against these guys, it’s good test for us (and shows) that if we stick together and play together we can do good things. It was a good plus for us.”
• With his first goal, Arnott snapped a streak of nine straight games without one.
“It was good for me because I needed to break out of that slump,” Arnott said. “It was a good start to the game.”
With his second, he had his first multi-goal game since the final outing of the 2008-09 season. He also moved into a tie with Shea Weber, Steve Sullivan and Patric Hornqvist for the team lead this season.
• Goalie Pekka Rinne stopped two of three skaters he faced in his first shootout of the season. He improved to 6-2 all-time in the tiebreaking gimmick, and has allowed a total of six goals on 27 career attempts.
Dan Ellis (1-1) was the goalie for Nashville’s first two shootouts of the season.
• Dumont has an assist in three straight games and four total over that span. He also has a team-leading 12 for the season, at least four more than any other Nashville player.
• Nashville remained unbeaten this season (9-0-0) when it scores at least one power-play goal.