Power play change pays off, but not enough for a Predators’ win

Saturday, December 5, 2009 at 10:26pm

Barry Trotz got the Nashville Predators’ power play going Saturday with a small lineup change as Martin Erat, who was moved to the first unit, scored the game’s first goal.

Before long, though, that lead was gone. Long gone.

The Minnesota Wild scored twice in the final two minutes of the first period and added two goals in the second – all without a response from the Predators. By the time Jason Arnott scored unassisted with 10:55 to play in the final period, there was little reason for the 13,145 at Sommet Center to cheer. When Marcel Goc found the net with 12 seconds to go, there were few left to cheer even if they wanted.

The result was Nashville’s second loss in four days to Minnesota, this one 5-3.

“We just didn’t play well the first 20 minutes,” Erat said. “… They scored two goals and we just didn’t pick it up in the second period. I don’t know what happened.”

Trotz replaced Steve Sullivan with Erat in an attempt to break a five-game stretch with no power-play goal goals. For much of the night, Erat remained on the third line with Goc and Jordin Tootoo during even strength situations, when Sullivan also was in his normal spot alongside Arnott and J.P. Dumont.

The Predators’ coach got plenty of opportunity to gauge the impact of the move as Minnesota was called for four minor penalties in the first 15:40 of the contest. It looked promising when Erat fired a shot into the top corner with 35 seconds to go on the second.

It was Erat’s third power-play goal of the season, one shot of Arnott’s team lead, and pretty much the high point of the contest for the home team.

“We got one early and we just kept getting power plays,” Arnott said. “We should have gotten another one. It would have given us a little more life, but as of late we haven’t a lot of power-play goals.

“Getting one was a bonus for us, but to get two would have been really, really good.”

Minnesota, which rallied from two one-goal deficits on its way to a 5-4 overtime victory Wednesday, got a goal and an assist from Andrew Brunette and two assists from Martin Havlat, as it scored five goals for the fourth time in five games.

Nashville came into the night tied for the second-fewest goals in the Western Conference and simply could not keep pace. The power play finished the night 1-for-5, and through two periods the Predators’ attack had produced 16 shots on goal, two fewer than the Wild had in the second period alone.

“I wouldn’t say we were at our best, but we were OK early, and we drew some penalties,” Trotz said. “Then, obviously, we got a power-play goal. Then we didn’t get anything going. … There wasn’t a lot of details in our game.”

Briefly

• Goalie Dan Ellis started both games of a back-to-back for the first time since Nov. 14 and 15, 2008.

He made 34 saves and got the victory Friday at Chicago, but was pulled after the second period of this one and replaced by Pekka Rinne having allowed four goals on 28 shots.

“(Ellis) gave us a tremendous game (Friday) night, and a really good two periods (Saturday),” Trotz said. “I pulled him (because) as I call it, ‘The Mercy Rule.’ He gave us some really good goaltending on back-to-back nights. … I know he wasn’t happy with me, but he was the reason we were still partially in the game.”

• Nashville was 8-1-0 at home from Oct. 29 through Nov. 30. Since then, it has dropped two straight and has been outscored 10-3 in those games.

“We have to find a way to pump it up a bit,” Arnott said. “Right from the drop of the puck, we have to get some life and get some energy out there. We always seem to play well in our home building except for the last little while. We just have to take the next two days and get ready for Tuesday.”

The Predators’ next three games, beginning Tuesday against Vancouver, will be at home.

• Patric Hornqvist was one of Nashville’s two scratches.

It was the first time this season the 22-year-old forward was not in the lineup. Trotz called it a “coach’s decision.”

Hornqvist was one of the Predators’ top offensive players early in the season but has not had a point in his last 11 games.