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Dave Campbell / Associated Press, Published January 22 2013

Nashville hands Wild their first defeat

ST. PAUL – The Nashville Predators badly needed a break after a pair of shootout losses to start the season and a draining start to this tight game against the Minnesota Wild.

The opening was there for Martin Erat, and the veteran left wing made sure he didn’t miss it.

Erat’s unassisted goal with 8:15 left made the Wild pay for a late mistake and the Predators earned their first victory, 3-1 on Tuesday night over former teammate Ryan Suter’s new club.

“It was just one of those things where you make one mistake, or something happens, and that’s it,” said Dany Heatley, who scored for the third time in three games for the Wild, who failed to finish their opening homestand unbeaten.

Ryan Spaling scored in the first period and David Legwand added another goal with 16.2 seconds remaining, but Erat’s was the highlight.

He took advantage of a rare mistake by the Wild’s relentless star Zach Parise, who sent a pass out from behind his own net to a spot where none of his teammates were close enough to corral. Defenseman Jared Spurgeon was going the wrong way, and the puck kept streaking into the Wild zone with only Erat near it.

“It’s a rolling puck, so it’s tough,” goalie Niklas Backstrom said, adding: “I just have to beat him and get it outside.”

Backstrom came out quickly enough to stop the breakaway with his stick beyond the top of the left circle, but Erat blocked the clearing attempt and chased down the puck at the goal line. He maneuvered it in toward the net and dumped it in before Backstrom could recover and Spurgeon stop it.

“Marty’s been around the league, and in a position like that he knows they’re going to go to their forehand,” Predators coach Barry Trotz said. “He waited, and at the last minute he jumped in front of it and blocked it. It stayed with him, and he was able to put it in the net. Huge for us, because we were running on fumes.”

Erat shrugged off his shrewd move.

“It was a hard play for him, because the puck was standing on the edge,” Erat said. “For a goalie it’s always hard to play the puck like that. It just hit me in the stomach. I was actually lucky it didn’t hit me somewhere and bounce in the corner.”

Nashville 1 0 2 – 3

Minnesota 1 0 0 – 1

First period: 1, Minnesota, Heatley 3 (Parise, Stoner), 6:02. 2, Nashville, Spaling 1 (Klein, Yip), 16:31.

Third period: 3, Nashville, Erat 2, 11:45. 4, Nashville, Legwand 1 (Spaling), 19:43 (pp).

Shots on Goal – Nashville 5-10-11 – 26. Minnesota 12-7-11 – 30.

Goalies: Nashville, Mason 1-0-0 (30 shots-29 saves). Minnesota, Backstrom 1-1-0 (26-23).

A – 17,540 (18,064). T – 2:29.