There are things that are certain in this life: the sun comes up in the East; taxes; and the Nashville Predators beating the Columbus Blue Jackets.
That trend continued tonight at the Bridgestone Arena as the Predators defeated the Jackets 4-1. This was the last meeting this season for the two teams, and Nashville took the season series with a 5-0-1 record en route to capturing 11 of the 12 points on the line in this series.
Since the 2006-7 season, the Predators are 31-5-3 against the Jackets.
Pekka Rinne got the start for the Predators, while the Jackets went with Steve Mason.
The first period was absolutely dominated by the Predators, as they out shot the Jackets by a 12-3 margin on the way to a 1-0 lead after 20 minutes. If not for some good saves by Mason, the score would have been much worse.
The Predators score in the first came as Marty Erat deftly stole the puck from Fedor Tyutin and slipped it to Mike Fisher in the low slot. Fisher popped a quick wrist shot that beat Mason stick side for the goal.
In the second period, the Jackets reversed the momentum and dominated the Predators during the first ten minutes. They peppered Rinne with shots, and finally broke through at 6:14 of the period as Rick Nash converted a Mike Fisher turnover to beat the defense back. Nash beat Rinne stick side with a nice backhand that slid between Rinne's stick and the post to tie the game at 1.
As the period wore on, the Predators started skating again and getting shots in on Mason. They created some good scoring chances, but could not get one past the Columbus netminder, and this game had the feel of another nail biter with a team the Predators should handle fairly easily.
That tension that the Predator fans were feeling would be allayed late in the period. Just 1:20 seconds after the Predators were called for too many men on the ice, Columbus would be guilty of the same infraction. The Predators went on the power play, and Shea Weber fired a blast from the blue line. Mason kicked out the rebound with his pad directly to Fisher, and he potted the goal into the net past an out of position Mason to give the Predators a 2-1 lead at 19:31 of the second period.
The Predators were out shot in the period by a 16-12 margin, but they had survived the push from Columbus and started to control play as the period wound down.
The Predators stretched the lead to 3-1 as Matt Halsichuk got the puck on his stick in traffic in the low slot. Halsichuk fired a quick wrist shot that beat Mason stick side at 7:37 of the third period
The power play clicked once again as Ryan Suter, who was back after missing three games with an upper body injury, let a shot go from the blue line that was re-directed by Patric Hornqvist. Hornqvist was camped at the top of the blue paint, and his deflection easily beat Mason at 16:51 to make it 4-1 Predators.
The Predators thwarted any late push from the Jackets, and as the final horn sounded, the Predators possessed 62 points and their 11th victory in the last 13 games.
It was important for the Predators to take care of business against the Jackets. This was a game the Predators should have won, and more importantly, lets them keep pace with their Central Division opponents who have been playing outstanding hockey.
The Predators are on the road tomorrow night in Chicago, their last game before the All Star break, and this is another important tilt against a team that is just ahead of the Predators in the standings. It will be important for the Predators to play a full 60 minute game and be sound in all phases of the game.
Another challenge, and another opportunity.
My three stars:
1. Mike Fisher
2. Pekka Rinne
3. Patric Hornqvist