PHILADELPHIA – Martin Erat scored with 5:09 left to help the Nashville Predators win their third straight game, 3-2 over the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday night.

Steve Sullivan and Alexander Radulov also scored, and Chris Mason stopped 24 shots for the Central Division-leading Predators. Mason has been strong in goal since replacing the injured Tomas Vokoun (thumb), improving to 5-1-1 this season.

About 90 seconds after the last-place Flyers showed some surprising spirit to tie it at 2 on R.J. Umberger’s seventh goal of the season, the Predators scored on a turnover that showed why each team is at their current spot in the standings.

Flyers defenseman Mike Rathje whiffed over the top of the puck and had it swiped away in the circle by Paul Kariya, who quickly fed to Erat for his sixth goal of the season.

Not surprisingly, the crowd erupted in boos and the Flyers failed in their bid to win three straight games for the first time this season. Antero Niittymaki had 26 saves and Mike Knuble scored his eighth goal for the Flyers.

Knuble, who signed a two-year contract extension earlier in the day, gave the Flyers an early 1-0 lead. Peter Forsberg’s shot deflected off Mason, allowing the streaking Knuble to knock the puck in from the right side.

For the rest of the game, though, Nashville controlled the play, outshooting the Flyers in each of the first two periods.

Sullivan tied it midway through the first, and the Predators went ahead 2-1 on Radulov’s fifth goal of the season early in the second period. No surprise there for Nashville, which has outscored opponents 33-11 in the second this season, and outshot the Flyers 8-5 in the period.

Radulov scored a goal for the third straight game.

Mired in last place for almost the entire season, the Flyers got a late spark from Umberger. His backhander from the slot with 6:31 left tied it and gave hope the Flyers might be able to continue their slow climb out of the cellar.

Instead, it was more of the same for each team and the Predators improved to 3-0-0 against Eastern Conference opponents this season.


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