Nashville Predators right wing Martin Erat (10), of the Czech Republic, fights Atlanta Thrashers center Rich Peverley (47) for the puck during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Nashville, Tenn., Saturday, Jan. 30, 2010. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Frederick Breedon)
NASHVILLE - The Nashville Predators outshot another opponent. This time, Jason Arnott made sure they also had the advantage on the scoreboard, too.
Arnott scored seven seconds into the third period, and the Predators snapped a five-game skid by holding off the Atlanta Thrashers 4-3 on Saturday night. Call it a welcome win for a team that just staggered home off a four-game trip, losers of five straight in regulation despite outshooting their opponents in each game.
"As harsh and ugly as it looked at the time, the beauty of the thing was we gutted it out and found a way to win, and that's real important," coach Barry Trotz said.
Arnott provided the difference scoring his first goal since Jan. 2. Cody Franson fed Arnott the puck off the opening faceoff, and the captain skated up and snapped a shot past Johan Hedberg for his 13th this season to put the Predators ahead to stay.
"It was Franny's call," Arnott said. "He came up to me before the draw and said, 'If we win it, bust up the middle and I'll hit you,' and he did. And it just happened so fast. It's nice to get back on the winning track though. That's the main thing now and just keep it going."
Joel Ward and Martin Erat each had a goal and an assist, and Jerred Smithson added a goal.
Bryan Little had two goals for Atlanta, and Chris Thorburn scored short-handed. Atlanta ended a two-game winning streak after failing to score twice with the man advantage after Arnott's goal.
"Our D have to react to come across to the middle," Atlanta coach John Anderson said. "You just don't say, 'I've got my man,' and that's it. They didn't react."
Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne, who stopped 23 shots, had some key saves including on Maxim Afinogenov at the end of one of the power plays and Ilya Kovalchuk on a breakaway. Rinne, who has been alternating starts with Dan Ellis, said it was time for some big saves.
"After that I felt more comfortable and more confident," Rinne said.
The turnout was good on a night people were urged to stay at home due to icy roads from a winter storm, but not close to the announced crowd of 16,646.
The Thrashers had a small but loud group to watch the first game between these Southern teams only four hours apart. It's not much of a rivalry with the teams in separate conferences, and this was just the 12th game in this series.
The Predators desperately needed a victory to start a four-game homestand to avoid slipping even further than seventh in the Western Conference before a four-game trip going into the Olympic break. They were coming off a 4-2 loss at Detroit on Friday night where the Predators lost despite outshooting the Red Wings 48-28 - the most shots on the road in franchise history.
Ward got them started quickly, scoring on the Predators' third shot. He backhanded a shot by Erat that Hedberg stopped with his glove but didn't smother to stop play at 3:59 of the first. Smithson made it 2-0 at 9:27 when he stopped a pass with his left skate, spun around and put a wrister past Hedberg from the slot just in front of the crease.
Anderson wasn't happy with what he called two boneheaded plays early, especially considering his Thrashers had been resting in Nashville since a 4-3 win in Philadelphia on Thursday night.
"We were not sharp. It was as simple as that," Anderson said.
Little got Atlanta on the board with a power-play goal at 13:57 with a slap shot from the slot off a pass from Todd White.
Nashville bogged down again in the second period, wasting 1:24 of a 5-on-3. The Predators got lucky the whistle blew to wipe out Evander Kane's goal on a 2-on-1 breakaway at 6:55 of the second, and then Erat made it 3-1 at 11:12. Erat scored on a slap shot from the high slot off a pass Ward sent to him just after he skated across the blue line.
It didn't last long.
Thorburn ruined a Nashville power play as he backhanded the puck off the rebound of Marty Reasoner's shot at 12:23. Little tied it up at 3-3 with his own backhanded goal off the rebound of Kovalchuk's shot at 15:02.
NOTES: Nashville improved to 20-3-1 when scoring first and 6-4 in the second game of a back-to-back set. ... The Predators sent forward Andreas Thuresson to AHL Milwaukee earlier Saturday. ... The Predators have outshot their opponents 213-130 in the past six games.
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