Highlighted by Kevin Fiala's magnificent tally, the Nashville Predators finished their road preseason schedule with a 5-3 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday afternoon.
Filip Forsberg, Miikka Salomaki and Pontus Aberg also scored for the Preds before Fiala added an empty netter to give them their second victory of the exhibition slate, while goaltender Anders Lindback (16 saves on 17 shots) and Juuse Saros (14 saves on 16 shots) split time in the Predators' crease.
"I thought as the game went on, the second period and third period, I thought we were able to play a better game and generate more offense," Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. "We got going and lots of guys played good hockey. It's never easy to fly in and play right away, but I thought the guys played a good game and got better as it went on."
Forsberg took advantage of a 2-on-1 midway through the first period, keeping it himself and wiring a shot past Sergei Bobrovsky for a 1-0 advantage. Then, just over four minutes later, Miikka Salomaki collected a loose puck in the slot before walking in and snapping home his third of the preseason for a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes of play.
Cam Atkinson cut the Nashville lead in half when he scored for Columbus on the man advantage, but before the middle frame was out, Fiala made a statement. Working with a 3-on-2, Fiala handled everything, turning a Jackets defender around and then deking past an outstretched Bobrovsky for a dandy of a goal.
"It was great," Forsberg said of Fiala's marker. "That's just the things that he can do. He's just so skilled and it was a beautiful goal."
A point shot from Zach Werenski early in the third cut the lead to one again, but a power play chance saw Saros leave the puck for Emil Pettersson, who then found Aberg to capitalize on a wrister and a two-goal Nashville lead once more. Columbus then added a third before Fiala iced it into an empty cage.
With the preseason now two-thirds complete, Laviolette and his staff will start to see more of their regulars come into the lineup as the final roster begins to take shape, something the bench boss will look to work on in the coming days.
"When we get [the NHL regulars] back here and get them in the lineup, that's when we can really start to work on things," Laviolette said. "Practice will be good coming up. We have some decisions we have to make here shortly, so practice coming up will be really good, then an opportunity to play a couple more games and get ready for the opener.
Defensemen Jack Dougherty and Matt Irwin registered a pair of helpers on the afternoon while Vladislav Kamenev, Anthony Bitetto, Pettersson and Saros all collected one assist for Nashville.
After an off day on Monday, the Predators will return to the ice on Tuesday at Centennial Sportsplex for an 11 a.m. (CT) practice before hosting their final two games of the preseason later in the week. Columbus comes to town on Thursday evening before Nashville rounds out the exhibition slate by hosting Tampa Bay at Bridgestone Arena on Saturday night.