NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Goaltender Dan Ellis had been yanked from two games last week, both losses for the Nashville Predators, and wasn't exactly helping the push to the post-season.
Now the goalie who kept his job thanks to a snowstorm that slowed down his replacement's arrival has rebounded and is a big reason the Predators' faint playoff hopes remain alive.
Ellis stopped 36 shots for his fifth career shutout, and the Predators beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-0 Tuesday night for a second straight victory. Ellis has been in goal for both wins instead of Pekka Rinne, who was called up from their American Hockey League affiliate in Milwaukee.
"I think goaltending kind of owed the team after the two games that we had that I got yanked and stuff," a shivering Ellis said after receiving intravenous fluids for a game in which he lost 13 pounds. "Our team will find itself, and we just all need to be responsible for our own jobs. That's all I want to worry about is giving our team a chance to win right now."
Jan Hlavac and Jason Arnott each had a goal and an assist, and Radek Bonk added a goal for Nashville.
The Predators came in having lost five of their past seven to drop to 10th. With the victory, they moved within two points of eighth-place Colorado for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. They leave for a three-game road trip with three games remaining having won two straight with the pressure on to reach the post-season for a fourth straight season.
"It's great especially right now," said Hlavac, who scored his first goal since Feb. 27. "Every point's crucial."
The Predators are finishing the regular season in the Central Division where they are 15-8-4 this season.
Columbus, which hasn't won in Nashville since April 3, 2006, lost its third straight overall. The Blue Jackets weren't available after the game, and coach Ken Hitchcock wasn't happy with the play of his veterans or the weak goals allowed by goalie Fredrik Norrena.
"I'm looking forward to Chicago. I want to see how some of these guys play and respond," Hitchcock said.
Nashville beat Columbus for the seventh straight time at home, improving its streak in this series to 15 games with at least a point against the Blue Jackets, a streak that goes back to Nov. 16, 2006, and is the third-longest such streak in the NHL. They have a chance to add to that Friday night at Columbus.
But if the Predators keep playing like they did Tuesday night, they might have a chance at keeping their post-season streak alive.
They opened the game outshooting Columbus 12-5 and leading 2-0 after the first period. Hlavac scored his 11th off a rebound of Arnott's shot from between the boards and the left circle at 5:22, and Hlavac got them started again with an assist to J.P. Dumont who fed Arnott who scored his 26th on a wrist shot at 15:54.
The Blue Jackets stopped themselves late in the second just as they were pressuring Ellis with the man advantage. Columbus, which outshot Nashville 19-5, stopped the game with 4:13 left when defenceman Ron Hainsey's shot rose and smashed a glass.
Officials decided to take the third-period intermission under NHL rule 77.3, replace the glass and finished the final 4:13 of the second with a momentary break for the goalies to switch ends for the third.
Arnott said Ellis kept the Predators in the game in the second when they were outworked.
"If you're going to go anywhere in this day and age, your goalie has to be the No. 1 guy night in and night out, and Elly's been that for us lately. We need him to keep going because it's not over yet," Arnott said.
Then it really got heated. Columbus left wing Alexandre Picard checked Nashville forward Scott Nichol into the end boards, prompting Predators deafens Shea Weber to skate up and shove Picard into the boards, starting a fight.
Hlavac nearly had a second goal at 13:31 of the second on the power play. But the goal was waived off after a replay clearly showed him kicking the rebound of Weber's shot off his right toe into the goal.
They got that 3-0 lead on a power-play goal when Bonk scored on a backhand at the right post off a rebound of Martin Erat's shot from the left circle.
Notes: Dumont extended his points streak to four games with an assist that gave him five points in that stretch. He extended his career high in points to 68. ... Weber had his three-game points streak snapped. ... The Predators played with a jersey hanging on their bench for a 10-year-old boy who died March 10 of cancer. They fulfilled his Make-A-Wish request and helped refurbish his school's gym last week and were giving the jersey to his parents after the game.