NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - Martin Erat is finally hitting his best stride for the Nashville Predators.
Erat scored a pair of power-play goals and the Predators won their fifth straight, 3-1 over the New Jersey Devils on Friday night.
Second in club history in points and goals, Erat missed seven games earlier this season because of back spasms. The early-season injury slowed his production, leaving Erat with only three goals before his first multiple-goal night of the season.
``He's caught up,' Predators coach Barry Trotz said. ``He missed some time earlier. He's going to the net. He's shooting pucks. He's moving his feet and he's doing the things that Marty Erat does really well and now he's getting rewarded for it.'
Erat provided all the offense Nashville would need to match a club record by earning a point in 10 straight games (8-0-2).
``We always play the same with strong defense,' Erat said. ``We're getting the turnovers and we're trying to get the chances to the net. We got two on the power play and that's even better. We need those special-teams goals.'
Goalie Anders Lindback has been a key component of Nashville's recent success, improving to 6-0-1 since taking over when Pekka Rinne went down with a knee injury.
Lindback lost his bid for a third shutout in four games when Devils rookie Mattias Tedenby connected on the power play at 7:06 of the third period.
``I just feel comfortable with the way they're playing in front of me,' Lindback said. ``I trust them so much. We have a really good defense and smart forwards. I didn't expect it to be this good in my first year here.'
New Jersey failed to build on Wednesday's 3-0 win over Phoenix that ended a five-game losing streak and failed to generate a sustained attack against Lindback and the Predators. The Devils had only 16 shots for the game.
``The confidence just isn't there,' said Jason Arnott, who played four years with the Predators before rejoining the Devils in an off-season trade. ``We played one good game and tried to build off that. We got down by a goal and it was tough to come back from.'
Steve Sullivan got that goal with 16.3 seconds remaining in the first period. Shea Weber picked off a clearing attempt at the right point and wristed a shot on net that appeared to hit Sullivan in front before trickling past Martin Brodeur.
There were few chances for either team in the first as the Predators outshot the Devils 5-4. Alexander Sulzer had Nashville's other quality chance of the period, a hard shot with six minutes left that knocked Brodeur to the ice.
The Devils' best shot was one that didn't count statistically when Rod Pelley hit the post behind Lindback with two minutes remaining.
Erat put Nashville up 2-0 at 4:56 of the second. Ryan Suter, manning the left point, fed the puck to a wide-open Erat in the right circle and he ripped a high shot past Brodeur.
Nashville continued to play outstanding defense, holding New Jersey to only 5 shots in the period.
Once again, the Devils' most promising chance hit the post. This time, Ilya Kovalchuk found metal after wheeling in the Predators zone.
``It's unacceptable,' Kovalchuk said of the latest defeat. ``I don't know what happened. We can't play like that, especially in our home building.'
Erat padded the Nashville lead at 4:55 of the third. The only suspense left at that point was Lindback's shutout bid.
Notes: LW Brian Rolston played a second straight game for the Devils since being placed on waivers on Tuesday. ... Nashville RW Patric Hornqvist missed a second straight game with an upper-body injury. ... It marked the fourth time Nashville accumulated points in 10 straight games. They most recently went on a 7-0-3 run from Feb. 19 to March 10, 2007.
The Associated Press News Service
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