ATLANTA – Ryan Suter made sure the Nashville Predators left Atlanta with two points – for a change.
The defenceman knocked down a lead pass from Shea Weber and beat Johan Hedberg on a breakaway 1:44 into overtime to give the Predators a 4-3 victory over the Atlanta Thrashers on Friday night.
“It was a smart play,” Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. “He caught them in a line change.”
Nashville’s first-round draft pick in 2003, Suter slipped the puck between Hedberg’s pads for his third goal of the season and 19th of his career.
“That was pretty cool,” Suter said. “Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals would have been better, but this will do for now. … I knew the goalie was coming out. I aimed at the five-hole.”
Dan Hamhuis and Scott Nichol each had a goal and an assist, and Pekka Rinne made 22 saves to help Nashville win in Atlanta for the first time since Dec. 6, 1999. The Predators were 0-3-1 in Atlanta since that victory in the Thrashers’ first season.
“Big win. Big goal by Suter,” said Rinne, 3-0 this season.
Rinne played in place of regular goalie Dan Ellis.
“I’m happy with my wins,” Rinne said. “That’s the most important state for me. The more wins I get, the more games I get.”
Atlanta’s Ilya Kovalchuk tied it with 9:34 remaining in regulation on his eighth goal of the season, taking a pass from Nathan Oystrick and beating Rinne from just to the left of the crease.
Jason Arnott scored his team-leading 11th goal 6:21 into the third period to give Nashville the lead. The puck came to the center after a scramble in front of the net and he beat Hedberg.
Atlanta tied it at two on a goal by Oystrick at 10:06 of the second period. Eric Perrin dug the puck out in the corner, and Jason Williams hit Oystrick with a perfect pass as the defenceman jumped into the play after coming off the bench. Oystrick, who didn’t have a point in his first 11 NHL games, has two goals and two assists in his past three games.
Nashville took a 2-1 lead 42 seconds into the second period, although the goal wasn’t awarded until after a video review on the next stoppage of play. Nichol’s blast from the right circle appeared to go high, but the replay showed that the puck had actually beaten Hedberg and cut through the net.
“It was a little weirder than I’ve seen it before,” Atlanta coach John Anderson said. “What are you going to do. I’m surprised that they let the play go on so long.”
It took more than eight minutes for Nashville to get its first shot, but the Predators scored once they did. Nichol stole on the puck on a penalty kill and fed Vernon Fiddler, who made a drop pass to Hamhuis on the rush. Hamhuis beat Hedberg after a fake to give Nashville the lead at 8:39.
Atlanta tied it at 16:39 of the first period – and Hamhuis again had a part in the goal. The Nashville defenceman tried to clear he puck from behind his net, but the puck went off Todd White’s stick and past Rinne into the net for an unassisted goal. It was White’s seventh goal and 20th point of the season.
Notes: Ellis got the night off after starting eight consecutive games. He was 4-3-1 with a 2.22 goals-against average during the stretch. … Veteran Wade Belak, acquired from Florida on Thursday, played his first game for Nashville at right wing. … RW Joey Crabb, recently called up by the Thrashers from Chicago (AHL), made his NHL debut. … Atlanta goalie Kari Lehtonen, who hasn’t played since Oct. 30, had an injection Thursday as part of the treatment for his ailing back and could be skating in a few days.