PREDATORS 2 | JACKETS 1
Despite being heavily out-shot and struggling to get their offense going, the Blue Jackets once again found themselves with a chance to win in the third period.
Ryan Johansen scored his ninth goal of the season at 3:48 of the third period, courtesy of a beautiful cross-ice pass from Nick Foligno on the power play. That goal made it a 1-1 hockey game with plenty of time remaining, and as the third period grew older, it looked like the Jackets and Predators were destined for overtime.
Nashville, 9-1-1 on home ice entering the game, had other plans and an opportunistic Colin Wilson capitalized on a Blue Jackets miscue in front of their net.
Calle Jarnkrok got the puck toward Curtis McElhinney but it was blocked, allowing Craig Smith to chip the puck into the crease where two Blue Jackets fanned on chances to clear it away. Wilson was all alone in the blue ice, and he swept in the game-winning goal with 2:12 left in regulation.
As mentioned above, the Blue Jackets found quality scoring chances hard to come by tonight and though Pekka Rinne only had to make 21 saves, it was a nervy third period on both sides.
One constant was the play of McElhinney, who was making his first start since winning a 4-3 game in Philadelphia two weeks ago, a game that snapped a nine-game losing streak. He was charged with helping to end what was a five-game skid entering tonight, and he did everything he could with 40 saves - and he was up to 30 saves on 30 shots before the game was half over.
“Our goaltender was very good for us,” Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said. “But we have to start finding ways to win games instead of finding ways to lose games.”
The Blue Jackets will try to break out of a six-game funk on Monday night against the Florida Panthers in what will be the first of a home-and-home series between the two clubs. After that game, Columbus heads down to Florida for games against the Panthers and Lightning on Thursday and Saturday.
NOTE: Kerby Rychel made his NHL debut tonight and played 10:36 with two hits. He became the third of Columbus' three 2013 first-round picks to make their NHL debuts this season, marking the first time a team has accomplished that since 1999 (New York Islanders).
Unfortunately, tonight’s turning point is the Wilson game-winner. The Blue Jackets had the third period under control and had the better of play for the most part, but one mistake was enough for the Predators to turn a pending overtime duel into two points. Smith made a nice play to follow up on the initial shot and get the puck toward the net, and Wilson was able to clean up the loose change and give Nashville its second lead of the game.
vs. Florida Panthers
Monday, 7 p.m. ET