NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Bridgestone Arena hasn’t always been the kindest building to the Blue Jackets, but hey, it’s the preseason and the visitors have been playing some pretty good hockey lately.
Despite a heavy shot advantage from the Predators - and a noticeably more uptempo attack under new head coach Peter Laviolette - the Blue Jackets weathered the storm in the first 10 minutes and got settled into their game. Curtis McElhinney, who has been sharp in the exhibition, made some key early saves to keep it scoreless before Columbus capitalized on one of its few first-period chances.
BLUE JACKETS 3 | PREDATORS 0
With Mattias Ekholm in the box, the Blue Jackets didn't need long to get one past Pekka Rinne to take an early lead. Nick Foligno, another guy who has been strong in the preseason, showed great patience behind the net and wrapped a perfect pass on to the tape of Artem Anisimov, who slam-dunked the opening goal at 14:04 of the period.
The Blue Jackets were out-shot 12-3 in the opening frame — much of that due to penalty trouble and a shoot-happy Nashville power play — but McElhinney did well to keep his team in front after 20 minutes.
Unlike the first period, which was largely controlled by the Predators and their special teams, the second period was a nice push-back from the Blue Jackets.
They came up empty on a power play chance early in the middle frame, but increased their lead to 2-0 on a terrific shorthanded sequence. Tim Erixon helped break up a play at the blue line, and the Jackets broke out in a hurry with Foligno leading a 3-on-1 that became a 3-on-2 into the zone.
Foligno laid a perfect drop pass to James Wisniewski who was busting up-ice, and Wisniewski lasered one over Rinne’s shoulder for a 2-0 lead at 4:22. The Blue Jackets could have had a couple more in the next few minutes, as well, as they began to own the puck and make the Predators play at their pace.
The Blue Jackets were out-shooting the Predators 10-4 with just over 15 minutes gone in the second period, and if not for a post and a couple of close calls, their lead could have been even larger.
"It looked like we were a little flat and we didn't have the legs that we wanted (early on)," Todd Richards said. "Once we got past that, I liked our game. I'm not always worried about the shot clock and what that says...we just have to do a better job of becoming a better shooting team. Too many shots are getting blocked, but I thought we had some good offensive zone time."
Jared Boll, who has looked and played well in the preseason, scored his second goal in a week to make it 3-0 seven minutes into the third period.
"Obviously in the preseason you want to get off to a good start and carry it into the regular season," Boll said. "It feels good to just have the confidence up a little bit after such a tough year last year, but the team's been playing well and been piling up the wins here.
"We've got a little bit (of the preseason) left here and a lot of work to do, but we just have to keep getting better."
From there, McElhinney and the Blue Jackets' defense - which gave its goaltender very good support - had it sealed up. McElhinney finished with 36 saves and a shutout, though he admitted post game that he fought the puck a little bit.
"I thought the first couple shots, guys did a great job and in terms of our penalty kill, I thought we eliminated a lot of the cross-ice stuff," McElhinney said. "It was a well-fought effort for us in our end own tonight, and that was nice to see.
"My hat's off to (my teammates) tonight for cleaning up some of my mess."