NASHVILLE – The Nashville Predators are healthy and confident. They’re also playing the best hockey in the NHL.
Martin Erat scored twice and Nashville beat the Detroit Red Wings 3-1 Monday night for its sixth straight victory. The streaking Predators finished off a five-game homestand in style and have won 10 of 12 overall, a stretch that started with the return of J.P. Dumont to the top line with Jason Arnott and Steve Sullivan.
“We’re just playing better and just putting everything together,” Erat said. “The power play’s playing better. The penalty kill is doing better, and 5-on-5, they don’t score any goals against us.”
The Predators beat the best team in the West in San Jose and the East in New Jersey during this homestand, and they finished off this latest win in regulation for the first time in three games.
“It’s been kind of growing and growing,” Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne said. “The confidence is the biggest thing and right now we have a good thing going, and hopefully we can keep it going.”
Arnott also scored a power-play goal for Nashville. Rinne, who has been in net for each game during this six-game run, made 16 of his 30 saves in the third period to preserve the win.
“They were all over us,” Arnott said. “If it wasn’t for Peks, we probably would’ve ended up losing the game.”
Drew Miller scored for Detroit, which has lost three of four.
“We had a lot of opportunities,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “I thought Rinne was really good in net. … They battled hard, their goaltender was good, and we were unable to finish at their net.”
This was the Red Wings’ first game since defenceman Niklas Kronwall hurt his left knee, an injury that will keep him out at least a month. That might have been one reason why Nashville kept the puck in the Detroit zone early while outshooting the Red Wings 21-15 through the first two periods.
In a game pitting the NHL’s two least penalized teams, the Predators scored with the man advantage in each of the first two periods and went 2 of 4 on the power play. Nashville coach Barry Trotz was most proud of the discipline his team displayed, picking up just two penalties, while the Red Wings weren’t happy they couldn’t convert with the man advantage.
“They scored on their power play, and we didn’t,” Detroit forward Henrik Zetterberg said. “I think that was the big difference today.”
Arnott spun around in front of the goal and tried a backhander, then wristed the rebound past Chris Osgood at 10:24 of the first. Arnott has scored in three straight games, totalling four goals.
Erat made it 2-0 at 1:41 of the second when Joel Ward found him at the back of the left circle, and Erat’s slap shot beat Osgood for another power-play goal.
Miller got Detroit on the board at 6:38 of the second as he skated along the line through traffic and scored his first goal of the season on a wrister.
“I got a good drive out of the corner. It’s something I’ve been trying to work on in my game to get more offensive. I got a lot of luck to beat that big goalie,” Miller said of the six-foot-five Rinne.
Erat padded the lead with his fourth goal on a wrister from the slot at 17:40 to help seal the victory. Rinne held up under the flurry, which included a puck off the post with 40 seconds left. The goalie said the Predators talked before faceoff about this rivalry being a good matchup.
“They obviously are a great team, but I think we challenge them pretty well and we have showed that,” Rinne said.
NOTES: Nashville had just seven power-play goals through the first 17 games. But the Predators had eight power-play goals in the five-game homestand that ended Monday night. They improved to 11-0-0 when scoring with the man advantage. … Nashville also is 9-1-0 when scoring first. … Sullivan has six points in five games. … Nashville’s David Legwand, who had an assist, has seven points (three goals, four assists) in his last six games. … The Red Wings were 7-2-1 in their previous 10 games. They have dominated the series between these Central Division rivals, but Nashville won last season 4-2-0.