By Amanda DiPaolo
The Nashville Predators were able to avoid losing their fifth straight contest by edging the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-2 Sunday afternoon in front of 16 340 fans at Bridgestone Arena.
“It’s huge,” David Legwand said of the win. “Obviously, that’s one of our enemies over there, and they played us hard. It’s a good hard-fought hockey game, and that’s big for us getting the two points and not giving them any points.”
The win means the NHL’s longest active home winning streak against one team continues with the Predators record against the Blue Jackets improving to 16-0-0 in their last 16 starts in Nashville.
Columbus Captain Rick Nash is aware of the losing streak. “We’ve lost a lot here,” he said. “I mean we’ve moved on from all that stuff; it’s a new year — a new season. It was a good game; we just couldn’t close it out.”
With the Predators having played Saturday afternoon, the Blue Jackets put on a lot of sustained pressure in Nashville’s zone early.
The Predators didn’t register their first shot on goal until 5:22 into the first period. Nashville did have a couple chances to go ahead in the first period when twice Predator players fanned on shots that would have resulted in pucks going into empty nets.
With 43 seconds left in the first period, Ryan Suter was called for slashing Fedor Tyutin in the defensive zone.
The Predators began the second period the way they ended the first, on the penalty kill. Just 59 seconds into the middle frame Shane O’Brien was called for holding Columbus captain Rick Nash. The penalty gave the Blue Jackets a 5 on 3 man advantage for 19 seconds.
It appeared that Columbus had taken a 1-0 lead with 13:35 left in the second period when Derek MacKenzie was jabbing at the puck and Colin Wilson was trying to keep it from going in behind Pekka Rinne. MacKenzie believed to have scored, but the apparent goal was waived off because it was inconclusive as to whether or not the puck had actually crossed the goal line. The play was under review for at least five minutes.
While the goal was not allowed, the Blue Jackets did get on the board first. With Shea Weber in the box for tripping, Matt Calvert picked up his 10th goal of the season. RJ Umberger and Grant Clitsome picked up the assists.
Nashville tied things up early in the third period when Weber scored on the power play. Clitsome was sent to the box for interference on Marty Erat.
Weber’s shot from the point his Jan Hejda in the face and bounced into the net. Hejda went to the dressing room but later came back to finish the game. The goal was Weber’s 13th of the season. Suter and Mike Fisher picked up the assists.
The Predators took a 2-1 lead when Jonathon Blum’s bullet from just over the blue line got through traffic in front of the net and beat Mathieu Garon at 7:18 into the third period. It was Blum’s first NHL goal. Joel Ward and Nick Spaling assisted.
“It was a big goal for the team, I think. Just to get that and get this win before the road trip, I think that’s huge because four games on the road coming up in Western Canada. That’s a good way to win a home game,” Blum said.
Columbus came back and tied the game as they scored their second power play goal of the game. It was the sixth consecutive game that the Blue Jackets scored two power play goals. David Legwand was sent to the box for hooking with less than 10 minutes to play in regulation. Shane O’Brien sent a clearing attempt up the middle of the ice and straight to Kris Russell who sent a blast of his own past Rinne. Russell’s goal, his fourth of the season, was unassisted.
Nashville had a hard time staying out of the penalty box and for the second game in a row, Weber found himself in the penalty box with under 4 minutes to play in a tied game. Unlike Saturday in Dallas, the Predators killed off the penalty and as Weber stepped out of the box he took the puck, sent it up to Erat in the offensive zone who took a shot on goal. Legwand shot the rebound right into the empty net with Garon out of place to give the Predators the 3-2 lead with just 1:35 left in regulation.
The Predators now embark upon a crucial four-game road trip that will take them to Western Canada for the last time this regular season, as well as their final trip to San Jose.
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