Well, that was fun.
In front of yet another sold out Bridgestone Arena crowd, the Nashville Predators outright dominated the visiting Blue Jackets, 5-1, improving to 32-5-4 all-time against Columbus at home.
“It won’t do anybody any good for me to go any further than we were overwhelmed from the start of the game to the end,” Columbus head coach John Tortorella said.
Nashville is now 39-23-13 on the season and remains two points behind the Chicago Blackhawks for third in the Central Division.
Pekka Rinne turned aside all but one of the 19 shots he faced while his counterpart at the other end of the ice, Joonas Korpisalo, was the only reason Nashville didn’t hang double digits on their opponent. The rookie netminder made 43 saves in the loss.
“We didn’t even let them breathe,” Mattias Ekholm said. “In the last game we played against Vancouver, we came out slow and it almost hurt us in the end. It took a great effort in the third. Tonight we had 20 shots after 10 minutes. We played a great game. From every guy in here, that was an A-plus effort.”
Former Blue Jacket Ryan Johansen agreed.
“We were ready to start tonight, every line was,” he said. “Huge credit to the guys on this team tonight. We didn’t give them a sniff at all. Usually there are some momentum swings but, for the most part, we handled them really well.”
Handled them they did. Nashville had five different goal scorers, 10 different players with points and only gave Columbus a single power play opportunity.
But, in truth, the key to the domination was the start.
“We killed their hope right away,” Ekholm said. “We played a great first period and just fed off of that.”
James Neal got things going just three minutes in when he potted his 30th of the season, giving the Preds two 30-goal scorers in the same season for the first time since Paul Kariya and Steve Sullivan did it back in 2005-06.
“In parts of the season one of us has been hot at different times and that’s been good,” Forsberg, the teams’ other 30-goal man, said. “We always try to shoot a lot of pucks, and [Neal’s] got an unbelievable shot. He’s been really showing the fans and the team what he can do.”
Ekholm would add a goal at the end of the first while Craig Smith and Shea Weber would tack on two more in the second giving Nashville the 4-1 lead headed into the third.
Calle Jarnkrok put the final nail in the Columbus coffin when he put the finishing touch on a gorgeous pass by Neal followed by a beautiful shot-pass by Josi to make it 5-1 less than a minute into the final frame.
Speaking of domination, the Predators have just two regulation losses in their last 21 games. Since February 12, they’re an incredible 14-2-5, the best in the NHL since that point. So how do they keep it rolling against a Colorado Avalanche team that’s in true desperation mode after having lost a critical game to the Minnesota Wild on Saturday?
“That we can actually clinch a playoff spot on Monday, that’s enough motivation,” Ekholm said. “We know how big of a game it is. They’re behind us in the standings, they want to catch us and we know we need the same effort we had tonight.”
Puck drops at 7:00pm Central.