RECAP: Preds now sit atop the West with win over Blue Jackets

Nashville, TN, United States / The Game Nashville
RECAP: Preds now sit atop the West with win over Blue Jackets

I believe it was Lil Jon and LMFAO who said “Shots! Shots! Shots! Shots! Shots!” (and so on). He must have known about this week of games.

In front of 16,548 at Bridgestone Arena, the Nashville Predators beat the visiting Blue Jackets 2-1 on Saturday night on the strength of 42 shots on goal. In their past four games, Nashville fired 150 shots on the opposition net and, as a result, went 4-0-0 on the four-game homestand.

Goaltender Pekka Rinne is now 16-3-1 on the season, has won his last six and is being considered as one the front runners for the Vezina Trophy.

Despite an opening frame that saw the Preds throw 20 shots on the Columbus goal, the two teams went into their respective locker rooms scoreless.

“I think we went toe-to-toe with them in the first six or seven minutes,” Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. “Then, once we got through that, I feel like we started to push our game for the last eight to 10 minutes of the first period and then through the second.”

And that’s exactly what they did. Mike Ribeiro broke the stalemate when he collected a Roman Josi shot behind the Columbus net, came out front and put it past Curtis McElhinney to make it 1-0. It took 31 shots but the Predators finally converted.

“You run into some nights like that where the puck won’t go in but, overall, we had a really solid effort,” Matt Cullen said. “We put a lot of pucks at the net and created a lot of offense but it just wouldn’t go. But it’s a positive sign for us that we stuck with the game plan.”

In the final stanza, Columbus would tie the game on a power play marker by Ryan Johansen but Colin Wilson would finish off a Craig Smith effort in the final minutes of the contest and give the Predators the 2-1 victory.

“He’s one of those guys that maybe the points weren’t coming at the beginning of the year as frequently as he would like,” Laviolette said. “But that’s something that we don’t really talk about internally. We don’t say ‘you’ve got to get going scoring some points.’ We talk about our team and what we need to do in order to be successful and he’s been terrific.”

Nashville is now 9-1-0 when leading after 40 minutes of play and 11-3-2 in games decided by one goal.

“Nobody panicked on the bench at 1-1 [tonight], guys just went back to work,” Laviolette said about the abundance of tight games so far. “It can be a strength of a team to realize that, if it’s tied or if we’re down by one, or even down by two going into a third period, if we just play the way we know how to play we can be successful.”

The Predators finished the night holding down first place in the Western Conference. In addition, if the Vancouver Canucks lose tomorrow night – the only game on the NHL schedule Sunday – Nashville will start the month of December as the West’s top team.

A quick trip to Raleigh, North Carolina is next up as the Preds take on the Hurricanes on Tuesday night. At 7-13-3, Carolina has one of the worst records in the league but is coming off of two strong games versus the Pittsburgh Penguins, a 4-2 victory followed by a tight 3-2 loss.

Puck drops at 6:00pm Central.

MY THREE STARS (as voted on with 5:52 remaining in regulation):
1. Curtis McElhinney (CMB)
2. Mike Ribeiro (NSH)
3. Colin Wilson (NSH)

1. Colin Wilson (NSH)
2. Curtis McElhinney (CMB)
3. Mike Ribeiro (NSH)

PHOTO CREDIT: Jeremy K. Gover //

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