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Erat's goal off turnover gives Predators third straight win

Nov 30, 2006 - 2:45 AM PHILADELPHIA (Ticker) -- Thanks to a costly turnover, Martin Erat helped the Nashville Predators remain perfect against the Atlantic Division.

Erat snapped a tie with 5:09 remaining in the third period, giving the Predators a 3-2 triumph over the disappointing Philadelphia Flyers.

Entering with a 3-0-0 record against teams in the Atlantic this season, Nashville saw a 2-1 lead disappear when R.J. Umberger tallied at 13:29 of the final session.

But Flyers defenseman Mike Rathje coughed up the puck in his own zone less than two minutes later, allowing Paul Kariya to feed Erat at the inner edge of the left faceoff circle for the deciding goal.

"We knew that the ice in the last 10 minutes would not be great," Erat said. "The puck jumped over the defenseman's stick and he made the turnover. We jumped on the puck. Paul Kariya passed it to me and I shot it."

"You make a play like that, you lose a game, and there is nothing you can do about it," Rathje said. "I went to make a pass to Randy (Robitaille) and it went off my stick. I don't know how it happened. Usually, that never happens to me. Those are the breaks."

Flyers right wing Mike Knuble was quick to defend his teammate.

"Mike takes care of the puck a lot," Knuble said. "Ninety-nine percent of the time, he is great with the puck. The guys on the bench have a lot of confidence in hiim when he's going to make a play with the puck. He logs a lot of minutes for us and a puck is going to take a funny bounce here and there. It just happened to be a tough time in the game."

Steve Sullivan and rookie Alexander Radulov also scored for the Predators and Chris Mason made 24 saves for his second straight win since starting goaltender Tomas Vokoun went down with a hand injury.

"This year, I've gotten to play more frequently, even when Tomas was healthy," Mason said. "That always helps to get a rhythm. ... I knew that when I got the chance, it was important to be good. I put a lot of pressure on myself to perform when I get the chance."

Mason also recorded an assist for Nashville, which has won three straight games and five of its last six.

"It's great," Erat said of the winning streak. "You feel more confident on the ice and you know what the other guys on the ice are doing. When you have that confidence, it's a lot easier to play."

Signed to a two-year contract extension earlier Wednesday, Knuble netted his third goal in four contests for the Flyers, who had their modest two-game winning streak snapped.

Antero Niittymaki stopped 26 shots for Philadelphia, which has won just one of its last seven meetings with Nashville. Niittymaki will receive the bulk of action in goal for the Flyers for a while as Robert Esche underwent successful surgery to repair his adductor muscle Wednesday and will be sidelined two to four weeks.

Looking to win three in a row for the first time this season, Philadelphia dodged a bullet early as Niittymaki made a glove save on Kariya's backhander during a breakaway just 31 seconds into the contest.

Just over four minutes later, Knuble buried the rebound of captain Peter Forsberg's shot for his eighth goal of the season and a 1-0 lead.

Niittymaki made another impressive glove stop on Sullivan with 6 1/2 minutes left in the opening period. But the rebound came right back to Sullivan, who fired it past the netminder from the right circle at 13:32 to forge a tie.

Simon Gagne nearly snapped the deadlock at 3:43 of the second, but his backhander on a breakaway rang off the right goalpost.

"We hit the post I think four times," Forsberg said.

Less than three minutes afterward, Radulov extended his goal-scoring streak to three games, beating Niittymaki high to the glove side at 6:18 after cutting to the circle from the right wing boards.

"I just went 1-on-1," said Radulov, the 15th overall pick in the 2004 draft. "Their defense was kind of cheating on me and was staying in front of me. There was a hole in the middle and I stepped up there and I took a chance on the shot, and it went in."

The 20-year-old Russian, who has five tallies in 10 games, was unfazed by his recent success.

"I try not to think about it," he said. "If I do, the streak is over. If I have the puck, I'll look to make some plays. If it's not there, I just drive and try put the puck in the net."

Umberger drew the Flyers even in the latter stages of the third, taking a feed from Robitaille - a former Predator - and putting a backhander past Mason from the slot.

"This time earlier in the year, we would have been cooked," Knuble said. "Maybe we didn't have the jam to come back and try to even make it a game. R.J. chips in a great goal there to tie it. ... We're trying to be one of those teams that will come back in the third."

Despite his team's ability to come back, Flyers coach John Stevens was disappointed with the final outcome.

"It hurts," said Stevens, whose club fell to 3-7-3 at home. "We're in the situation we're in because we wind up beating ourselves. ... If we want to win games, we need to clean up those types of things."

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