The Nashville Predators suffered a 4-3 overtime loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets at Bridgestone Arena that was in a word, embarrassing.
Throughout the game, the Predators were unable to get through the neutral zone and turned the puck over more times than I can count. Rather than skate the puck through the zone or dump it deep and establish the cycle in the offensive zone, the Predators were content to make blind crossing passes or drop passes that were quickly gathered in by the Jackets and started the other way. Frankly, the inability to get through the neutral zone against this team was inexplicable and plagued the Predators all night long. Even more baffling was the persistence in making bad- or dumb- passes that resulted in turnovers.
When the Predators got into the offensive zone, they had trouble establishing their cycle and offensive flow against the aggressive Jackets defense. The Predators reverted to form on a couple of occasions, and when they did, they challenged Curtis Sanford in the Jackets net and tallied three goals for their efforts. The problem for the Predators was that they were too inconsistent in doing the essential things that would have lead to a victory.
Colin Wilson opened the scoring for the Predators at 18:29 of the first period as he gathered the puck in a goal mouth scramble and lifted it over Sanford to make it 1-0 Predators.
Jeff Carter tied the game at 1 at 3:29 of the second period with his first goal of the year. He used Ryan Suter as a screen and beat Nashville netminder Pekka Rinne with wrist shot over his shoulder.
The Predators took the lead again on the power play as Mike Fisher scored from in front of the net off a rebound of a Shea Weber shot at 10:27 of the second period.
The Predators could not seize the momentum and hold on to the lead as Columbus tallied on the power play with Ryan Suter in the box. Vinny Prospal lifted a backhand past Rinne to the short side. Rinne got most of the puck but could not stop it completely and it fluttered into the net to tie the game at 2.
The BJ's took a 3-2 lead at 1:45 of the third period as R.J. Umberger scored on the power play with Ryan Suter again in the box for roughing.
Nick Spaling tied the game at 3 as he corralled a rebound in the low slot and slipped the puck five hole on Sanford at 14:24 of the third.
There was no more scoring in the third period, and off to overtime, which has not been kind to the Predators. Going into this OT, the Predators were 1-3.
Make it 1-4.
James Wisniewski scored past a screened Rinne at 2:43 of the overtime period to end the BJ's string of futility with 27 straight losses at Nashville.
Yes, the Predators got a point. That is the positive.
Losing to a team like Columbus is the major negative. In a word, it is embarrassing.
Actually, two words. Unacceptable.
Sloppy play has been the hallmark of the Predators in the last two games. Tonight, their poor play bit them in the ass. Frankly, the Predators got what they deserved in this contest.
The Predators got David Legwand back in the lineup, and Head Coach Barry Trotz inserted him as the center between Patric Hornqvist and Colin Wilson, breaking up the dynamic line of Hornqvist, Wilson, and Craig Smith. Legwand was generally ineffective with his line mates, and in the third period, Smith was reunited with his line. This line should have never been disbanded, and in doing so, the offensive effort suffered.
The Predators have lost their identity in the last two games. The team has tried to be cute and play a finesse game rather than their blue collar style of hockey. Tonight, when they played their game, they were effective. Too often, they deviated from that game and it cost them a win.
Hopefully this team has learned their lesson about what it takes to be successful. They did not do that consistently in this game.
Keep on being inconsistent in your play, and there will be more embarrassing losses.
My three stars:
1. Curtis Sanford
2. Colin Wilson
3. James Wisniewski