EDMONTON – It has definitely become a Predator-prey relationship.
Martin Erat recorded his first career hat trick as the Nashville Predators made it eight wins in a row over the Edmonton Oilers with a 5-1 win on Tuesday.
J.P. Dumont and Ville Koistinen also scored for the Predators (34-25-8), who won for the second time in a row and are now 2-1 to start a lengthy six-game road trip. The victory moved Nashville into seventh place in the Western Conference standings.
“We have had a lot of success against Edmonton, I don’t know what the cause of it is,” Predators goalie Dan Ellis said. “I think it just comes down to really executing when we do play them.”
“It’s great, especially when there’s only 16 games left and the points are so important for us,” the 26-year-old Czech said. “But it doesn’t matter who scores for us, we just need points.”
Nashville head coach Barry Trotz was thrilled to see Erat achieve the milestone.
“To watch a guy like that get a hat trick is something special,” he said. “He’s a special player and we rely on him for a lot of our offence. And he really contributed tonight.”
Tom Gilbert had the lone goal for the Oilers, who saw a pretty good run of late come to a grinding halt.
The loss ended a four-game winning streak for Edmonton (31-31-5) and stopped their run of consecutive victories on home ice at seven, one short of tying a franchise record.
“In this homestand we’ve had a lot worse first periods and a lot better results,” said Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish. “We got caught on the first goal and then it looked like there was a funnel in front of our net and anything put on it was going to get funnelled in.
“We were guilty of being careless at times with the puck and it seemed like every time they entered our zone they were digging it out of our net.”
Edmonton forward Robert Nilsson feels the Oilers were just a bit snake-bit on the night.
“They pretty much scored on their first two chances,” he said. “We got a lot of good chances but couldn’t bury them. They played good when they had the puck and when they had the chances they scored. That was the difference tonight. Things just didn’t bounce our way tonight.”
Having now lost every game in the last two years between Edmonton and Nashville, MacTavish still can’t quite explain why the Predators seem to have their number.
“It’s an embarrassment to have lost eight games in a row to a team,” he said. “You have to find an answer and we haven’t been able to find one yet.”
Even his opposing coach doesn’t have an answer for that.
“There’s certain teams, maybe it’s the way we match up, our style of play, I don’t know,” Trotz said. “Mind you, if I did, I wouldn’t tell you.”
The Predators came roaring out of the gate, scoring on two of their first three shots on Edmonton goalie Mathieu Garon.
The first goal came just 55 seconds in as Dumont unleashed a hard wrist-shot from the left circle that handcuffed Garon.
Under three minutes later it was 2-0 Nashville as Erat threw a shot on net and was rewarded as the puck banked off of defender Steve Staios and into the net.
Nashville took a commanding 3-0 lead with seven minutes to play as Erat scored his second of the game, picking the top corner with a blast from the point. Ellis made 12 first-period stops.
Dwayne Roloson came in to replace Garon for the start of the second period and didn’t fare much better, allowing a goal on the second shot he faced 54 seconds in when Erat completed the natural hat trick, swatting in a rebound from a Shea Weber shot.
Tempers flared not long after that as a pair of fights erupted at the same time with Edmonton’s Zach Stortini slugging it out with Darcy Hordichuk and Staios taking on Jerred Smithson.
Edmonton finally got on the board six minutes into the second as Gilbert snuck in from the point to slap his 10th of the season past Ellis, making it 4-1.
The Preds restored their four-goal advantage before the midway mark as Vern Fiddler gained the zone and dropped a pass back to a trailing Koistinen who blew a bullet past Roloson.
The Predators play the fourth game of their six-game road swing in Vancouver on Thursday. The Oilers begin a short two-game tip in Columbus on Friday.
Notes: Oilers centre Sam Gagner was named rookie of the month for February. Gagner, the youngest player in the league at 18, led all rookies in scoring with 13 points in 12 games. .. Nashville forward Martin Gelinas will undergo surgery Wednesday to repair his torn ACL, putting an end to his season. Gelinas suffered the injury Feb. 21 against Vancouver.