The Nashville Predators closed out their 2014 pre-season campaign with a 3-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday night but it wasn’t due to a lack of effort. Nashville fired 47 shots at Sergei Bobrovsky but only a short handed tally by Eric Nystrom in the first and a late 6-on-3 power play marker by James Neal got through.
Pekka Rinne saw the first 40 minutes of action, allowing just one goal on 16 shots. Carter Hutton finished out the game and allowed two on just seven.
In the opening frame, while Roman Josi was in the box for cross-checking, Nystrom stole the puck at center ice, deked forehand then backhand, and put it past Bobrovsky to open the scoring. His shorthanded tally went unassisted and was his first goal of the pre-season.
In the second, it would take Columbus almost 10 minutes to register their first shot on goal but, once they did, they finally broke through. Nick Foligno took a pass from Brandon Dubinsky and wristed it past Rinne to tie the game.
Foligno would add another as the Jackets’ leading pre-season scorer found the back of the net less than five minutes into the final stanza to make it 2-1, Columbus.
Cam Atkinson bagged his fourth of the pre-season – a team high – when he used a power play to give his team an insurance marker with about five minutes left in regulation.
Nashville would not go away quietly, however, as James Neal would snap a shot past Bobrovsky and off the padded inner bar to pull within one.
It was too little too late though as the Predators could not find the equalizer in the dying moments.
The Preds finished the exhibition season 3-3-0 but it was more about how they looked in those six games than the results. They outshot their opponent in four of the six contests, Rinne looked good in each outing and key forwards like Craig Smith, Filip Forsberg and Neal all notched goals.
The interesting thing to watch for in the next few days is how they handle the surplus of forwards. Mike Fisher probably won’t be able to play until November so that opens up one spot but are Viktor Stalberg and Matt Cullen close to returning? If not, that could open up a roster spot (or two) as well but, if they are, some tough decisions are in store for General Manager David Poile, AGM Paul Fenton and Head Coach Peter Laviolette.
The opener is Thursday night against the Ottawa Senators. Despite being traded last season, it will be David Legwand’s first game in Music City as a member of another team.