Erat has a tough act to follow — his own

Thursday, December 10, 2009 at 1:09am

Martin Erat had been one of the Nashville Predators’ best players in recent weeks. It made sense, therefore, that given the opportunity to skate with some of the team’s other top forwards, he got even better.

Erat was put on the top line with Jason Arnott and Steve Sullivan on Tuesday against Vancouver and scored three times — the 17th hat trick in franchise history and the first this season — as Nashville snapped its two-game losing streak with a 4-2 victory.

“It’s always nice to play with those two guys,” Erat said. “It’s so easy to play with Arnie and Sully. You always know where they are on the ice, and it’s easier for me.”

The difficult part will be for Erat to continue to score when the Predators return to play Thursday against Columbus (7 p.m., Sommet Center).

Arnott had the most recent hat track before Erat when he hit the net three times against Detroit late last season (Feb. 28). In his next game, three days later, he notched a goal (the game-winner) and two assists in a 6-5 overtime victory against Edmonton.

That performance was an exception.

Of the first 15 hat tricks in franchise history, only twice did the player follow it up with a goal in the next contest.

Rob Valicevic followed up the first three-goal game in franchise history with another goal (also a game-winner) the next time out. Then in 2004 Sullivan chipped in a goal and an assist in the wake of his first Predators’ hat trick as part of a memorable offensive run immediately after he was acquired in a trade with Chicago.

Based on circumstances, an argument can be made the Paul Kariya did even better than Arnott after he scored three times — also against Detroit — in the final game of the 2005-06 regular season. Kariya came back with four assists in the playoff opener against San Jose. For good measure he added one assist in the season-opener the following year against Chicago.

Six times the Predators who had hat tricks managed just an assist in the next contest. Five times that player was held without a point.

“I was looking for a little change (with the top line),” coach Barry Trotz said. “Sometimes you go a little bit stale when you stay together as a line. Once in a while the odd change will work.”

If he could, he wouldn’t change a thing for the next game.

More historical perspective on Erat’s hat trick:

• He became the fifth player ever with more than one three-goal game for the Predators. Sullivan (three), Arnott (2), David Legwand (2) and Scott Walker (2) are the others. Arnott, Legwand and Sullivan are the only ones to have hat tricks in consecutive seasons.

• Erat’s hat trick was just the third of Nashville’s 17 all-time that included an empty-net goal. Scott Walker (No. 2, Dec. 26, 2000) and Legwand (No. 12, Jan. 20, 2007) also capped theirs without having to beat a goalie.

• It was the sixth Nashville hat trick in December. The next most popular month for the feat has been November, with four.

• Erat is one of three Predators’ draft picks to get a hat trick for the franchise. The others are Legwand and Scott Hartnell.

• Vancouver became the 11th different team to allow a Nashville player to score three times in a game. Chicago (four times), San Jose (twice), Dallas (twice) and Detroit (twice) all have had it happen more than once.