Sullivan had a natural hat trick in the second period, and Scott Hartnell added two goals to lead the Nashville Predators to a 6-0 victory over the Ottawa Senators on Thursday night. “They were quicker, they did everything at high speed and we couldn’t handle it,” Ottawa coach Bryan Murray said. “We got attached to the guy with the puck all the time, and they made cross-seam passes, and backdoor tip-ins.”
It was Sullivan’s sixth NHL hat trick and his third with the Predators. He scored the three goals in a span of 5:56, the quickest for any player in Nashville history. Sullivan showed no effects of a groin strain sustained a week earlier at Los Angeles that forced him to miss Nashville’s previous two games.
“I just wanted to go out and get my legs underneath me,” Sullivan said. “I just wanted to make sure I didn’t hurt the hockey team.”
Sullivan completed his hat trick by converting a cross-ice pass in the left circle from J.P. Dumont, tucking his shot just inside the left post. Dumont assisted on all three of Sullivan’s goals.
“That was a good night for Sully,” Nashville Coach Barry Trotz said. “A couple of those goals, Steve got the goals, but what plays and passes J.P. made, he froze everybody and found Sully back door.”
The ailing Senators were without captain Daniel Alfredsson, who missed his fifth consecutive game with a hip injury, and defenceman Wade Redden who sat out his seventh with chest and shoulder injuries. Ottawa lost for the fourth time in five games.
“There is no doubt those guys are big players for us, but we are not going to make excuses,” defenceman Chris Phillips said. “This is an opportunity for everyone to step up and have more responsibility, and we didn’t do that.”
Nashville’s Chris Mason, in his 10th straight start, made 22 saves en route to his second shutout of the season.
“Everything we did clicked. It was one of the best offensive games I’ve seen,” Mason said. “Ottawa is travelling right now, and they looked maybe a little more anemic because our guys looked so good.”
Predators rookie Alexander Radulov had a goal and an assist, and Paul Kariya recorded three assists for the Predators. In 18 games, Radulov has 10 goals to rank third among rookies.
Kariya had the primary assist on both of Hartnell’s goals.
“They are the two nicest passes I have seen all year, I guess I was just in the right place at the right time,” Hartnell said. “Anyone could have put those passes in.”
“(Hartnell) is the best at being in front of the net and tipping pucks,” Trotz said. “If we put pucks to the net with him there, we have a great chance to score.”
Ray Emery, who entered with the sixth-best save percentage at .925, took the loss, allowing all six goals on just 14 shots. Emery was lifted in favour of Martin Gerber at 11:54 of the second period.
“It’s a humbling experience,” Emery said. “You got to tip your hat to them a bit, they played well, and I think we made them look even better.”
“I felt sorry for Emery tonight, he did not have a chance on one of those goals,” Mason said.
Notes: Petr Tenkrat had the Predators’ only other natural hat trick on Dec. 15, 2001. … Jason Arnott retuned to the Nashville lineup and recorded one assist. He missed 11 games with a right knee injury. Ottawa made its first trip to Nashville since Dec. 30, 2002. … The Predators are 5-0 against Eastern Conference opponents this season.