The Nashville Predators finally put an end to their four-game losing streak with a huge 3-2 victory over the surging Columbus Blue Jackets Sunday afternoon at the Bridgestone Arena.
David Legwand, who left the game temporarily in the second period, returned to score the game-winning goal with 1:35 remaining. The win puts Nashville back in the Western Conference top eight for now.
This was the 16th consecutive loss in Nashville for Columbus, dating back to 2006. The Jackets were 8-1-1 in their last 10 coming into this game, coming away with zero points for the first time since Feb. 9.
Nashville buzzed around in Columbus’ zone at times in the first period, but couldn’t get on the board as Legwand and Sergei Kostitsyn missed on great scoring chances on 2-on-1 opportunities.
At the 12:35 mark of the second, Derek MacKenzie appeared to have put the Jackets on top by jamming the puck past the goal line; a lengthy review determined there wasn’t conclusive evidence to show the puck was definitively in. The Jackets answered right back on the power play, though. Matt Calvert continued his hot streak by scoring on a rebound in the crease at 14:17 to put his team up 1-0 after two periods.
The Predators came out with a different tenacity in the third, as it was one of the more important 20-minute efforts of the season. Early on in the period, Shea Weber tied the game with a power play tally of his own. His patented slap-shot ricocheted into the net off of Jan Hejda’s face at 1:47. Hejda, as you would imagine, was shaken up on the play but did return later.
Five-plus minutes later, Jonathan Blum’s first NHL goal gave the Preds a 2-1 lead. Blum uncorked a slap-shot that found its way through traffic. His first goal came in just his fourth game with Nashville.
“It was a nice time to get it, with the game tied,” Blum said about his goal. “I just wanted to get it past the first defender and it went in.”
However, Columbus took advantage of a turnover by Shane O’Brien to tie the game again with 7:26 remaining. On the penalty kill, O’Brien’s clear from the zone was a lame duck right up the middle; Kris Russell capitalized immediately thereafter with his fourth goal of the year.
“I want that up the wall, not backhanded up the middle,” said Preds coach Barry Trotz. “A lot of things open up from that.”
From there on, it was a “war”, as Trotz put it, between the two teams. The post-whistle scrums were more pronounced, and the one-on-one battles were fiercer.
After killing off a penalty with less than two minutes to go, Weber came out of the box and took a pass into the Columbus zone. He dumped it off to a trailing Martin Erat for a one-timer, whose rebound spit out to an uncovered Legwand. ‘Leggy’ backhanded in the game-winner with just 95 seconds left.
“Webby was behind their defensemen and you got to take a chance there with 1:40 left in the game,” Legwand said about the game-winner. “That’s what we did and it paid off. I think we caught them a little off guard.”
The game ended with more pushing and shoving and hostilities. Nashville prevailed to grab a much-needed two points.
“Both teams played really well,” Trotz said. “There’s a lot of emotion, as you saw there at the end. That’s playoff hockey… it’s great!”
Pekka Rinne made 25 saves in the winning effort; Mathieu Garon made 25, as well, for Columbus.
After yesterday’s loss in Dallas, the pressure was on to get a win against this hot Columbus team. The Preds finally got some breaks go their way after some unlucky bounces in recent games.
“It was about time,” Rinne said in reference of the hockey gods being in their favor. “We’ve been working hard. It’s been a tough go for us. Mentally – we play almost every second night and we’ve been losing – mentally, it’s draining. You always get a new chance and we responded really well.”
Rinne and company will embark on a monstrous four-game road trip in Western Canada and San Jose over the next week and a half.