The Nashville Predators surrendered two late goals to send their Saturday-night game with the Columbus Blue Jackets to extra time, but Martin Erat ultimately scored the lone goal of a shootout to vault the Preds to a 4-3 victory in front of 15,947 at the Sommet Center. With the victory, Nashville is now 6-1-1 in its last eight games and 8-7-1 on the season.
Goaltender Chris Mason was outstanding, stopping 36-of-39 shots on the night, and two of Preds three goals came against the number-one ranked Blue Jacket penalty kill.
“We did it the hard way, kind of giving them a point, but we got the two points, which is always good to do at home,” Mason said.
With Columbus having played a night ago in Detroit, the Predators game plan included pouncing on the Blue Jackets early. They did just that, out-hitting and out-chancing the opposition in the opening minutes. Greg de Vries nearly put Nashville on the board just 2:34 in when he one-timed a centering feed that initially snuck through goalie Fredrik Norrena’s five-hole, but he quickly reached behind him to secure the puck.
A relentless Nashville attack led to three penalties to Columbus in the first eight minutes of the contest, earning the Preds a pair of short five-on-three advantages and eventually the first goal of the game at 9:05. Radek Bonk got the power play tally, burying a rebound created by a heavy Dan Hamhuis slap shot from the point. Ville Koistinen also assisted on Bonk’s sixth goal of the season.
Curtis Glencross knotted the game at 1-1 at 13:37 of the opening frame when he was left all alone in front to bury a feed from Dan Fritsche. The goal came on Columbus’ third shot of the game, just 31 seconds after the expiration of its first man advantage of the night.
“It was a little bit of a strange game,” head coach Barry Trotz
Martin Erat (10) scores the shootout-clinching goal against Columbus goalie Fredrik Norrena.
said. “I thought we came out in the first period and played extremely well – drew some penalties and had some good chances, but Norrena played well. It took a little steam out of us that we had so many shots and chances and the score was 1-1.”
In the first period, the Predators were 1-for-4 on the power play while outshooting the BJs 12-4. But, the roles flipped in the second, as Columbus went on the offensive.
A brilliant save by Mason on Rick Nash at 3:16 of the second kept the scored tied at one. Nash was left wide open in front to bury a centering feed from the corner, but the Preds netminder dove across his crease to stone the former Rocket Richard Trophy winner. Mason stood on his head throughout the period, stopping all 19 shots he faced.
It was Nashville’s penalty kill that had to do some heavy lifting in the second period, as it bailed the squad out, killing more than a minute worth playing with just three men. Hamhuis and Greg Zanon anchored the masterful kill, while Jerred Smithson and David Legwand rotated through the forward spot.
“We have been in that position quite a bit lately, we are probably getting more work that we should at that,” Mason said. “The guys are doing a great job – it is a tough job, but I am confident with the guys we have out there killing five-on-three’s”
Keeping the Jackets at bay on a handful of power plays early in the period set the stage for the Preds getting a man-advantage goal of their own at 10:07 of the middle 20 minutes. Marek Zidlicky registered his first goal of the year on a howitzer from the point that fought its way through Norrena. Legwand extended his point streak to five games (3g-4a) with an assist, while Ryan Suter made it three straight games with a point (1g-2a), collecting a helper as well.
“Z scoring a goal for the blue line on the power play was real big for us,” Trotz said. “Marek has played really well the last four or five games. He is shooting the puck, which we want him to do, and he launched a rocket tonight that was able to slide by Norrena, so we’ll take it.”
It took Nashville a mere 35 seconds of the third to erase the memory of a Blue Jacket-dominated second period and give it a 3-1 lead. The energy line of Martin Gelinas, Jordin Tootoo and Scott Nichol all pitched in for the marker, as a wrap-around by Nichol was pushed out into the slot for a charging Gelinas. Norrena stopped his rebound attempt, but Tootoo made the third time the charm, ripping a shot to the goalie’s right side.
“It is a good mix, we all have good speed, Marty brings that veteran presence and Toots has a good shot,” Nichol said. “The thing is, we skate really well and feed off each other, so it seems like we have had great chemistry the past few games.”
Added Trotz: “I thought the Nichol-Gelinas-Tootoo line was our best line tonight. Radek Bonk’s line did a good job on Sergei Fedorov and Nash unit as well. In that order, those were the top two lines and those aren’t the top two lines you think of on our hockey club.”
J. P. Dumont tries to navigate the puck by Fredrik Norrena in the overtime period.
The third goal one of the final shots Norrena would see, as Pascal Leclaire replaced him in net just two minutes later.
Columbus starting to make things interesting with a power play goal of its own, as Manny Malhotra unloaded a rocket from the top of the right face-off circle that solved Mason high glove. The Blue Jackets locked the game up at three apiece just 1:20 later, when Nikolai Zherdev fought off a pair of Preds and slammed home a pass from Jiri Novotny, who was stationed behind the Nashville net.
“I thought we were fine until they scored the power play goal, and then all their momentum came,” Trotz said. “We’ll have to play a much better game Monday – we made some poor decisions and turned the puck over a bit too much.”
In overtime, Nashville garnered the best chances, primarily while on its ninth man advantage of the evening with David Vyborny in the box for hooking.
In the shootout, Nashville didn’t even get to utilize all three shooters. Shooting second, Erat deked twice before popping a wrister high to Leclaire’s blocker side for the clincher. Mason, meanwhile, was outstanding, first sprawling to his right to stop Jiri Novotny, then stoning Gilbert Brule, who attempted to go glove side on Mason. Finally, Adam Foote clanged one off the post to clinch the two points for the Predators.
“I always go in there and react to the goalie, not reacting before I shoot,” Erat said. “It is different against every goaltender. The shootout is important, especially because there are eight to 10 points each season that can be gotten from them.”
These same two teams square off Monday at Nationwide Arena in Columbus. The game will be televised on FSN South, in addition to being accessible on the radio dial at WGFX-104.5 The Zone. Start time is scheduled for 6 p.m. CT.
Game Notes: Nashville scratched Kevin Klein and Darcy Hordichuk from the lineup, while the Blue Jackets sat Duvie Westcott, Michael Peca and Fredrik Modin… David Legwand played in his 500th career contest against Columbus. He is now just two games shy of tying Greg Johnson for second on the franchise’s all-time games played list, and a mere three points shy of tying Kimmo Timonen as the franchise’s all-time leading scorer. Legwand now stands alone as the team leader in points with 14 (6g-9a)… The Predators are 6-1-1 in their last eight games, 7-0-0 when scoring first and 4-0-1 in November… Nashville now holds a 26-9-3 advantage in its series with Columbus, and is unbeaten in the past nine meetings… Jordin Tootoo has already equaled a career high for goals in a season – he had only three in 65 contests a year ago.
1 - 0 NSH
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 NSH
3 - 1 NSH
3 - 2 NSH
3 - 3 Tie
Too many men/ice - bench