The Nashville Predators were looking to win two games in a row for the first time in over a month, and the Columbus Blue Jackets were just what the Predators needed to do just that.
The Predators buried the Blue Jackets with a first period goal scoring spree en route to a 5-2 victory.
The Predators scored 4 goals in a 3:04 stretch of the first period, the fastest 4 goals in franchise history.
Taylor Beck got the scoring started as he rifled a shot from the face off circle over the shoulder of Columbus netminder Sergei Bobrovsky for his first NHL goal. His tally came at 7:11 of the first period.
Shea Weber stretched the lead to 2-0 at 8:21 of the period on the power play. Bobby Butler worked hard to get control of the puck, made a move toward the net, and slipped a beautiful pass to Weber on the off side. Weber blasted home the shot for his 6th goal of the season.
The Jackets made it 2-1 as R.J. Umberger crashed into Pekka Rinne in the blue paint and the puck trickled through Rinne's pads after the collision and into the net. The play was reviewed, but inexplicably no goaltender interference was called.
Rather than let the Jackets build momentum, David Legwand responded to make it 3-0 at 9:46 of the first as he beat Bobrovsky from the slot.
The Predators made it 4-1 at 10:15 of the first period as Matt Halischuk whistled a shot over the shoulder of Bobrovsky off a rush into the Columbus zone.
Bobrovsky had given up 4 goals on 11 shots by the Predators, and his night was done. Steve Mason came in to replace Bobrovsky and finished the game in net for the Jackets.
Just 12 seconds after the 4th Predators goal, Rich Clune was called for interference, and because the play resulted in an injury to a Jackets player, he was given a 5 minute penalty and a game misconduct.
The 5 minute power play was a prime opportunity for the Jackets to get back into the game. The Predators had killed off the just over 3 minutes of Clune's penalty when Mike Fisher stole the puck and drove the net. He crashed into Mason and was given a 2 minute penalty for goaltender interference.
Now the Predators had to kill off nearly 2 minutes of 5 on 3 power play time.
And they did so in grand fashion.
The Predators gave the Jackets just two shots with the two man advantage.
Game, set, and match.
Artem Anisimov tallied at 14:53 of the second period, as his shot hit the stick of Mike Fisher and caromed over the shoulder of Rinne to make it 4-2.
The third period saw the Jackets have a decided advantage in zone time, as they controlled the puck and kept the Predators bottled up in their own end for lengthy stretches. The Predators did a good job of limiting quality scoring chances for the Jackets, however.
Roman Josi scored an empty net goal at 19:36 for the final margin.
Welcome Back, Big Guy
Hal Gill was back in the line up, and his presence was welcome, especially on the penalty kill. Gill was strong and his effort during the Jackets 5 on 3 was exceptional. Gill is a steady presence on the blue line and his return gives the coaching staff some flexibility with the D corp and getting the best blue liners on the ice for the match ups with the opponent.
Welcome Back, Predator Hockey
In the first period, the Predators forecheck was relentless and helped to create offensive opportunities. It was refreshing to see the Predators firing the puck at the net, and some good things- such as 4 goals- happened because they pulled the trigger. The defense did a good job of limiting quality scoring opportunities by the Jackets. And Pekka Rinne was solid in net. This is the type of game that the Predators are capable of playing, and tonight, they played a solid game in all phases.
Home, Sweet Home
With the win, the Predators home record is now 8-2-4. By contrast, their road record is 5-11-2. With the schedule heavily slanted to home games for the remainder of the season, the Predators have to continue to use home ice to their advantage.
No Let Downs
The Predators out shot the Blue Jackets 13-4 in the first period. In the final 40 minutes, the Jackets out shot the Predators 19-11. The Jackets started to control play in the second period, out shooting the Predators 9-4 and then 10-7 in the third. As mentioned, the Jackets spent a lot of time in the offensive zone in the third period. The Predators cannot step off the gas with a lead. Good teams will make them pay for that, and their success in upcoming games will depend on a full 60 minute effort.
Taylor Beck had a goal and an assist. Marty Erat, Gabriel Bourque, and Bobby Butler each had two assists. Matt Halischuk, David Legwand, Shea Weber, and Roman Josi had goals. This is the kind of effort that this team has to bring every night, and contributions have to come from all lines. This is the formula for the Predators to succeed, and it has to be consistent from game to game.
Kudos to Bobby Butler, who had a strong game. His assist on Weber's goal was a thing of beauty. He was strong on the puck and battled in the hard areas.
The Predators are now 13-13-6 and have 32 points. They sit just outside of the 8th spot for the playoffs. Getting into the playoffs will be a battle over the final 16 games. I still believe they will need to win 13 of their remaining 16 games to get in the dance.
The hill is steep and the task is going to be difficult. But it can be done.
Tonight, the team saw what it will take to get it done.
Now, they have to bring this effort every game.
My three stars:
1. Taylor Beck
2. Bobby Butler
3. Marty Erat