The Predators, who snapped a two-game losing streak, leapfrogged idle Detroit into first place in the Central Division and the Western Conference by beating the Phoenix Coyotes 4-1 Monday night. They did it despite not getting any points from Forsberg for the second straight game since he joined Nashville. Forsberg was credited with five shots and he combined with Paul Kariya and Martin Erat for nine.
“The Forsberg line could have scored three or four goals, easy,” Predators coach Barry Trotz said. “They were all over the offensive zone. They didn’t get anything, but they were dangerous, and that’s what you ask for.”
Forsberg thought he and his linemates were communicating better on the ice.
“They are fun to play with,” Forsberg said. “We just have to make sure we bury our chances and keep going. I had barely met the guys before Saturday’s game. At least I know their names now.”
Kariya is known for his meticulous preparation, and the lack of time with Forsberg is troublesome.
“We need a couple of practices together, especially on the power play, to figure things out a little bit,” Kariya said. “We need to be a little bit sharper. But, if we keep playing together like we did in this game we are going to do a lot of good things out there.”
Scott Hartnell scored a pair of goals in 23 seconds for the Predators. Jean-Pierre Dumont and Jason Arnott also scored for Nashville, tied with Buffalo for the overall lead in the NHL with 83 points.
“It was a must-win for us after the way we’ve been playing,” Kariya said. “Now that we have this one under our belts we have to build on it. It has been one good game, one bad game and that is not going to do anything for us going into the playoffs.”
Oleg Saprykin scored Phoenix’s lone goal.
Dumont scored at 18:49 of the first period when he was awarded a penalty shot after being taken down from behind by Ed Jovanovski on a breakaway. Dumont skated in and beat goalie Curtis Joseph with a shot high over the shoulder to the stick side.
“We haven’t been scoring on a regular basis,” Trotz said. “I was starting to wonder in the first period. We had lots of chances, but we weren’t burying them. It was one of those periods where we could have three or four goals, but we got nothing except the penalty shot.”
Just 39 seconds into the middle period, Steve Sullivan skated down the left side and fired a shot that bounced off Joseph. Dumont tried to shoot the rebound, but the puck trickled off his stick. Arnott finally hammered the loose puck home.
Hartnell then turned it on, twice getting ahead of the defence.
On the first at 5:34 he was all alone when Kimmo Timonen hit him with a long pass that he shot between Joseph’s skate blade and the right post.
It took only 23 more seconds for him to get alone again. David Legwand found him with a pass and Hartnell beat Joseph low to the stick side.
“It is always nice to get the puck in the net,” Hartnell said. “I hadn’t scored in nine games. It was a big relief.”
Hartnell credited the return of David Legwand to centre the third line as one of the keys to his success.
“David opens up a lot of ice for you,” Hartnell said. “He skates so hard and skates so well. He can put the puck on your tape, too. I’m happy to be back with him.”
Saprykin ruined Tomas Vokoun’s shutout bid with 2:46 remaining in the game, tipping in Keith Ballard’s shot from just inside the blue-line.
“Right now, we have too many weak links and too many guys not paying the price,” Phoenix coach Wayne Gretzky said. “Nashville is the opposite of us. They have everybody paying the price and that’s why they are successful right now.”
Notes: Nashville LW Paul Kariya played in his 800th NHL game. The Predators are 6-6 since the all-star break. Joseph had allowed only 2.83 goals per game in his previous seven outings. … The Predators are 31-8-1 when scoring first. … Legwand’s 49 points (20 goals, 29 assists) are a career high. … Jovanovski left the ice at 14:01 of the third period after taking a puck to the collarbone. He is scheduled for an MRI on Tuesday in Phoenix.