Coming into the night, the Columbus Blue Jackets were 8-0-1 in the month of December.
They’re now 8-1-1.
In front of 14,573 at Nationwide Arena, the Nashville Predators handed Columbus their first regulation loss this month and improved to 22-8-2 on the year in doing so.
Per usual, Pekka Rinne was outstanding, making 30 saves before allowing his only goal of the night.
“He’s our backbone,” Matt Cullen said about his goaltender. “It was unfortunate to give that one up at the end. They have a good power play though and, sometimes, you can’t control those things.”
“He goes to battle for us every single night,” Victor Bartley said about trying to get the shutout. “He keeps us in every single game and we tried to get that for him but, unfortunately, that’s just how things played out.”
Just 1:24 into the contest, the home town fans thought they’d taken the early 1-0 lead when Mike Foligno deked around a sprawling Rinne and deposited the puck into the net. Video review determined that the Nashville net had been knocked off its moorings and, therefore, there was no goal.
“Sometimes that can serve as a bit of a wake up call,” Cullen said. “I didn’t think we had our very best game to start. It wasn’t bad but it wasn’t as good as it can be. Something like that gives you a little bit of a sense of urgency.”
Allowing that first goal could’ve changed the game completely, even that early. The Predators were coming off a game in Minnesota in which they allowed five goals. Sure they got the victory in overtime but allowing five goals is very uncharacteristic of this Nashville squad and getting down 1-0 less than 1:30 into their very next game wouldn’t have been ideal.
“I feel like we have pretty good confidence in ourselves if we go down 1-0,” Rinne said. “But, obviously, it’s not the way you want to start. That was their second shot at the net and I thought it was a goal because I didn’t see the net come off. We got lucky there.”
Midway through the second period, Colin Wilson gave Nashville the 1-0 lead when Bartley sprung him on a breakaway with an up-the-gut pass from his own blue line. Wilson collected the puck, went in on Bobrovsky and fired a shot past him to make it 1-0, visitors.
Columbus was still licking their wounds when Weber forced a turnover. The puck came to Mike Ribeiro who broke into the Columbus zone 2-on-1. Ribeiro wound up, faked the shot and saucer passed it over the defenseman’s stick right on Smith’s tape who made no mistake.
The game went from what probably should have read 1-0, Columbus, to 2-0, Nashville. Quite the turn of events.
“Things are definitely going well for us right now,” Bartley said. “But that also means we’re doing the right things out there. We’re doing a great job with our left wing lock, we’re reloading really well and guys are understanding what we have to do to be successful and guys are executing.”
Any hope Columbus had for coming back in this one was dashed over a 2:14 span in the final frame. First, Seth Jones got his first of the season, less than a minute later Craig Smith tallied his second of the night and finally Mike Fisher bagged his third to make it 5-0, Preds.
“At 2-0, the game is up for grabs,” Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. “The next goal makes it either 2-1 or 3-0 and that’s a huge swing for somebody in momentum. It was nice to get it and then come right back and get another one right away.”
Jackets rookie Alexander Wennberg broke the shutout bid by notching his first career NHL goal with a little less than 5:00 to go but it was all for not as Nashville rolled on this night.
The Predators will finish off their three-game pre-Christmas road trip when they take on the Boston Bruins Tuesday night. With a victory over the Bruins and a Chicago Blackhawks regulation loss to the Winnipeg Jets tomorrow, Nashville will find themselves leading the Central Division once again.
Puck drops at 6:00pm Central.
MY THREE STARS (would have been):
1. Craig Smith (NSH)
2. Pekka Rinne (NSH)
3. Colin Wilson (NSH)
THE THREE STARS OF THE GAME:
1. Pekka Rinne (NSH)
2. Craig Smith (NSH)
3. Colin Wilson (NSH)
PHOTO CREDIT: Jeremy K. Gover // TheGameNashville.com