The Columbus Blue Jackets are like an annoying, yappy little brother that hangs around and makes the life of their big brother miserable. Tonight, the little brother was certainly annoying the big brother Nashville Predators. Annoying, that is, until the big brother finally took a 1-0 overtime victory.
Pekka Rinne got the start in net and had to be very sharp from the outset as the Jackets tilted the ice and swarmed the Nashville net in the first period. Rinne was strong in net and made some outstanding saves, turning aside all 14 BJ shots.
Nashville, on the other hand, started slowly and never mounted a serious challenge to Columbus netminder Steve Mason. For the period, the Predators only put 6 shots on net. Scoreless at the end of the first period, the Predators felt as if they survived the push that Columbus brought.
The Predators stepped up the attack in the second period, and Mason was equal to the challenge, turning aside all 13 Predator shots. The Predators managed to kill off a 5 on 3 power play in the period, which seemed to swing the momentum to the Predators. With Ryan Suter in the box on an interference call, the Preds were called for too many men on the ice during the kill. The PK unit was strong, limiting the Jackets chances and doing a good job of clearing the puck. Shots that got through were turned aside by Rinne.
The Predators had a glorious scoring chance as Ryan Suter came out of the box and took a lead pass to break in on Mason. He beat Mason stick side only to have the puck ring off the post.
Tied at the end of two, one had the feeling that the first score would be the one that would be the game winner. Neither Rinne nor Mason would yield that score as both tenders were strong in their net.
In the third period, Jason Arnott was slew footed by the boards and fell hard on the ice, hitting his head. He left the game and did not return. According to post game reports, there was a cut on his eye and he was woozy. He will not make the trip to St. Louis tonight, but will evaluated tomorrow, There is a possibility that he could join the team for the late afternoon game.
The third period saw the Predators out shoot the Jackets 11-6 and more importantly, start to take control of the action on the ice. The Jackets were limited in their scoring opportunities, and you could sense the Predators starting to wear down the Jackets physically, but more importantly, were wearing them down mentally. Although the Predators would not score in the period, they were starting to control play.
Moving to the overtime, Columbus got a glorious scoring chance as Mike Commodore broke in alone on Rinne. He tried to go high glove side, but Rinne stoned him with a lightning quick glove hand. The Predators then got the puck in the offensive zone, where Cody Franson fired a shot from the blue line. Mason got his right pad on the shot, but it climbed over his pad and trickled into the net. Game, set, and match-Predators.
The Predators have now won 14 straight home games against the Jackets and took the season series 5-1. Three of the home wins against the BJ's have gone to overtime or a shootout. The annoying, yappy little brother is a pest. They are, however, still just an annoying, yappy little brother.
The Predators have now won five straight games. They have to keep winning, keep taking care of their business. Don't worry about the teams chasing you. As long as you keep playing with purpose, they will be doing just that- chasing. You are nipping at the heels of the the teams in the five and six slots.
More importantly, you are playing solid hockey. Gritty hockey. Winning hockey. Scoring is coming from all over. Defense is solid. Goaltending is outstanding. That is winning hockey.
Kudos to Pekka Rinne. The big netminder is settling in to the starting role and he is outstanding. Three shutouts in four games. 132 minutes of scoreless hockey by the opposition. Rinne has taken the starter's role and he has excelled. Ride this big horse into the playoffs.
Every game from now to the end of the season is big. And you won't be playing yappy little brothers. The big boys are coming.
Keep bringing the effort. Keep playing with heart and grit. Do that and you will keep on winning.