Erat equals offense as Predators cruise past Toronto

Thursday, November 17, 2011 at 11:37pm

Martin Erat’s surname qualifies as an anagram.

Rearrange the four letters, for example, to spell the word ‘tear.’

Often that sort of thing is a novelty. In this case, it seems appropriate.

The 30-year-old forward recorded his second straight multi-point game and continued what qualifies — by any standard — as an offensive tear Thursday as the Nashville Predators beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-1 before 16,135 at Bridgestone Arena.

Erat gave the Predators an early 1-0 lead at 5:48 of the opening period when he fired a loose puck from a difficult angle past goalie Ben Scrivens. He made it 3-1 in a more classic fashion — he finished off a 2-on-1 with center Mike Fisher — just 2:05 into the final period.

Defenseman Ryan Suter scored the game-winner and Matt Halischuk added an empty-net goal as Nashville won its second straight and its third in the last four games. It has collected at least a point in nine out its last 10.

“I know it’s a long season,” Erat said. “You’re going to have stretches when it’s not going to go in. Right now, it’s a good feeling when I shoot the puck and it goes in. … Right now, we’re playing good defense, playing good as a team and we’re getting points.”

He has had a hand in four of Nashville’s six goals in the last two games and has nine points (five goals, four assists) in nine games since he returned from an injury that caused him to miss most of the season’s first three weeks.

“He’s skating real well, getting to pucks … making plays,” Fisher said. “He’s a hard guy to check with his speed and his strength, and he plays good in our end. He’s smart. He’s been a key to our line for sure.”

That line, which also includes left wing Sergei Kostitsyn, combined for seven points and a plus-9 rating — and did so against the Maple Leafs’ top offensive unit, which included Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul.

Kostitsyn had three assists and Fisher had two. Kessel, who started the day as the NHL’s leading scorer, had no points on six shots and a minus-4 rating.

“We’re playing good defense playing against the top lines, and we’ve been creating chances through a good forecheck and getting pucks to the net,” Erat said. “… We’re doing well right now and we just have to keep going.”

Erat trails only David Legwand on the Predators’ career lists for goals, assists and points.

He lost ground early, when he was hurt in the opener and Legwand got off to the best offensive start of his career. His resurgence has helped offset the absence of Legwand, who missed his fourth straight game with an upper body injury.

Erat and Legwand are now tied for third on the team with five goals apiece.

“Marty’s always had speed and he’s got a pretty good skill set, but he’s a determined player,” Trotz said. “He cares. He doesn’t take games off. He’s one of those players who’s around the puck or he’s chasing it down.

“That’s his game. He doesn’t play a real easy game. He plays a workman game with a real good skill set.”

Briefly

• Rookie forward Craig Smith earned a spot in blooper reels when he missed an empty net. By a lot. From the top of the blue paint that defines the goalies crease.

Somehow from there Smith managed to lift the puck over the net high enough so that it cleared the glass and went into the protective netting behind the goal.

“I feel bad for him,” Suter said. “He’s such a good kid. He works so hard. It’s unfortunate. But I told him, ‘Just laugh about it. You have to have fun with it.’”

It happened with 1:18 to go. It was nearly a minute later that Halischuk took advantage of the fact that Toronto pulled its goalie.

• Suter scored his fourth goal and equaled his total from each of the previous two seasons.

He played all 82 games in 2009-10 and 70 games last season. He has appeared in all 18 this season.

“I think it’s just putting pucks on net,” Suter said. “[Thursday] night it went off one of their guys’ shins.”

He’s only halfway to his career-high set in 2006-07.