BLUE JACKETS (16-14-7) 3, PREDATORS (15-15-8) 1
BRIDGESTONE ARENA | NASHVILLE, TN
Talk about an instant impact.
In his first game with the Blue Jackets, Marian Gaborik contributed pretty much what everyone was looking for and more. He tallied the game-winning goal in the third period off a sweet centering pass from Brandon Dubinsky, re-directing the puck over Pekka Rinne's shoulder for the go-ahead goal at 4:16 that would stand up the rest of the way.
With a massive 3-1 win at Bridgestone Arena, the Blue Jackets kept themselves in the thick of the playoff hunt and got their first regulation win in Nashville since April 3, 2006.
Sergei Bobrovsky made 38 saves and was spectacular in goal for Columbus, especially so in the third period when the Predators brought the house to try and break through for an equalizer. His best work was in the final minute with Rinne on the bench for an extra attacker, including back-to-back stops on Shea Weber and Craig Smith on the door step. It's his second consecutive victory and the third straight for the Blue Jackets, who followed up a road win in Calgary with wins over Anaheim and tonight in Nashville.
While the first period wasn't too busy, the Blue Jackets had to weather an early push from the Predators and were out-shot 7-1 in the first two-plus minutes of the game. Once they settled in, they managed the puck extremely well and spent little time in their defensive zone.
James Wisniewski's one-timed missile opened the scoring in the game and gave the Blue Jackets a 1-0 lead at 8:36 of the second period, and Gaborik picked up his first point in the union blue sweater on the play. The Predators managed to beat Bobrovsky only when he was lying on his back without a goal stick - a true testament to how solid the Columbus goaltender was in this game.
Gaborik's go-ahead marker was followed up by a wicked wrister from Matt Calvert that gave the Jackets a 3-1 lead with 9:10 remaining. The Calvert goal came minutes after he had a goal disallowed for a distinct kicking motion, but rather than let the call disrupt their flow, the Blue Jackets kept on pushing for the insurance marker and eventually got it.
What else could it be? The Blue Jackets paid a hefty price to acquire an elite player like Gaborik, and he did what elite players should do: make a difference in the game. His go-ahead goal was a slick alliance with his former Rangers teammate Dubinsky, and the tip-in was a sweeter finish.
- Bobrovsky, named the NHL's third star of the month last week, keeps giving the Jackets a chance to win on a nightly basis. His 38 stops tonight were by no means a walk in the park, and the Predators made it a point to drive the net against him. Bobrovsky stood tall and kept his team afloat.
- Gaborik was a difference-maker, without question: he registered a multi-point game in his Jackets debut and fired four shots on goal, giving him 117 on the season which is far and away the highest total on the club. He logged 16:03 on a line with Anisimov and Prospal.
- This was easily one of RJ Umberger's best performances of the season and he could have had a handful of goals if not for Rinne's strong play. Umberger saw a ton of ice in the third period and saw action in all situations.
- Heck of a return to game action for Dubinsky, too. He picked a pair of assists - including on Gaborik's winner - and led all forwards with 18:08 TOI.
- Calvert was bound to be rewarded for one of his best games, as well. He scored the 3-1 goal and gave the Blue Jackets some needed breathing room, but his line was all around the puck tonight and made life miserable for Nashville.
at St. Louis Blues
8 p.m. Thursday
Scottrade Center | St. Louis, MO