NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Dan Ellis went more than three years between NHL starts. He probably won't have to wait nearly as long for his next one.
"It has been a while since my last start," Ellis said. "I had to shake off some cobwebs in the first period."
Ellis played for Dallas when he beat the Los Angeles Kings on Feb. 8, 2004. Nashville coach Barry Trotz said he made the decision to start the backup in this game at the beginning of the season.
Although Ellis has relieved Chris Mason three times already this season, Trotz said Mason would remain the Predators' No. 1 goalie.
"Dan was real solid," Trotz said. "He didn't leave any rebounds. He made a couple of big saves when we needed them."
Ellis said he does not expect to be in goal in the next game against Florida.
"That's up to the coaches," Ellis said. "If I don't start I will go back to being our No. 1 fan."
In the first period, David Legwand fired a slap shot from above the left circle that slipped through the legs of Atlanta goaltender Johan Hedberg. The puck was still in the crease as Smithson skated in and shot it into the net before Hedberg could turn around at 12:51 of the first period.
At the 5:40 mark of the second, Kevin Klein scooted in and out of traffic down the slot drawing Hedberg's attention, then passed to his left where Tootoo fired a one-timer into the wide side of the net.
"A team in our position, with the things that have been happening, doesn't get the breaks," Hedberg said. "We tried to do too much and things didn't go our way. Sometimes you just try too hard."
Scott Nichol scored an empty-net goal with 31 seconds left to play.
The Predators outshot Atlanta 16-5 in the first period and 34-20 for the game.
"The guys came out and worked extremely hard," said team captain Jason Arnott. "We reflected back that we had to start playing for each other and get back to the work ethic we had at the beginning of the year," Arnott said. "We have to get back to having fun, not worrying about making mistakes and sticking to our system."
Smithson's goal ended a two-game scoreless streak for the Predators. ... This was the Predators' first game against an Eastern Conference team this season. ... Mason has never played against Atlanta in a regular-season game. ... Atlanta played the third of seven straight road games.