PREDATORS 5 | BLUE JACKETS 1
For the better part of 57 minutes, the Blue Jackets and Nashville Predators were locked in a fairly even hockey game - but a span of 2:19 significantly altered the outcome.
In a 0-0 game lacking many true quality scoring chances, the Predators were the more opportunistic team and took advantage of some mistakes by the Blue Jackets in crucial areas of the ice. A long stretch pass from Victor Bartley inside his own blue line split the Blue Jackets defense, allowing Colin Wilson to beat Sergei Bobrovsky on a breakaway at 7:47 of the second period to open the scoring.
Then it was Craig Smith scoring his first of two goals on the night, converting a 2-on-1 feed from Mike Ribeiro and firing into an open net to make it 2-0 Nashville at 9:25. Just like that, the Predators were in total control and they never really relented down the stretch, increasing their margin as the game went deeper.
Seth Jones and Smith (his second of the game) scored 44 seconds apart midway through the third period, turning a two-goal game into a 4-0 lead and putting it out of reach for the Blue Jackets, who saw their nine-game points streak (8-0-1) end, as well as a stretch of six consecutive games going to overtime.
Bobrovsky, who started the game, allowed four goals on 30 shots but made several key stops in the first two periods to keep it within reach for his team. Bobrovsky suffered his first regulation loss in the month of December, but he didn’t receive much help tonight and most of Nashville’s five goals were no-doubters.
“The support and execution wasn’t there tonight,” said Brandon Dubinsky. “The most disappointing thing is leaving (Bobrovsky) out there like that.”
The Jackets did get one back in the third period, with Alexander Wennberg scoring his first NHL goal with 4:22 to play. He was set up beautifully in the slot by Ryan Johansen, who picked up his 30th point in 33 games this season on the play.
Bobrovsky was lifted in favor of Curtis McElhinney after the second goal by Smith (7:13 of the third period). McElhinney allowed one goal on five shots in 12:47 of action.
The Blue Jackets are back on home ice Saturday night against the Boston Bruins.
One look at the game’s possession numbers (a slight advantage to Nashville at 53-47 in the Corsi For department) says it wasn’t dominated one way or the other; a string of mistakes and two short but disastrous spans were key factors in the outcome tonight. The back-to-back goals from Wilson and Smith in the second period got it started, and the second pair of quick strikes broke it open for Nashville.
vs. Boston Bruins
Saturday, 7 p.m. ET