Photo by John Russell
Scott Walker watches as his scoring chance goes through the legs of goaltender Pascal Leclaire and wide to the far side of the Columbus net late in the third period.
There was no shortage of chances for the Nashville Predators, but after scoring just over a minute into their game against the Columbus Blue Jackets Monday night, the Predators were unable to light the lamp again in a 3-1 loss at the Gaylord Entertainment Center. Dan Hamhuis notched Nashville's only tally, deflecting in a cross-crease pass from Yanic Perreault during the Predators' first power play.
"Usually when you get that first goal early in the game on the power play, it's a good sign of things to come and it opens up the game," Hamhuis said. "Give [Columbus] credit. They tightened things down and played a good game."
Nashville was the beneficiary of nine more power plays--including two abbreviated five-on-three advantages in the second period--but could not convert despite outshooting the Blue Jackets 37-28 for the game. Meanwhile, Columbus made the most of its chances, notching a short-handed goal in the first, scoring on a deflection in the second and capitalizing on a glaring Predators defensive zone turnover in the third.
"They got a couple turnovers and they just made good or lucky plays," Nashville goaltender Chris Mason said. "That's hockey. We missed a couple through the crease and off the crossbar. That's the way it goes. We've won games where it's been the other way, so it just happens."
The loss closes out a three-game homestand for the Predators and drops their season record to 43-24-8. Next up for Nashville is a pair of back-to-back road games in Chicago and St. Louis on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively.
A hooking call to Columbus forward Rick Nash 52 seconds into the first period Monday set the stage for Hamhuis' goal, which came just 17 seconds later at 1:09. Nashville had established possession in the Blue Jackets' zone and was moving the puck around the perimeter when Paul Kariya sent a pass from his location along the right half-wall down to Yanic Perreault in the right corner. Perreault delivered the puck to the front of the net, where Mike Sillinger was stationed in the slot and Hamhuis was positioned near the left post. Perreault's pass hit Hamhuis and caromed past Columbus goalie Pascal Leclaire to give Nashville an early 1-0 lead.
With the number of quality chances they generated, the Predators looked likely to strike again before the midpoint of the period. A miscue by the Blue Jackets just inside the Predators zone allowed Scott Hartnell to race the other direction on a breakaway, but he lifted his backhand shot over an open side of the net after deking to the right. Kariya hit Jordin Tootoo with a cross pass that Tootoo pushed just wide left on the redirection. Martin Erat finished a rush up the right wing by cutting strong to the net but was unable to stuff the puck by Leclaire.
With 9:55 gone in the first, a knee-to-knee collision between Nashville's Brendan Witt and Columbus' David Vyborny--for which Witt was not penalized--led to an unsportsmanlike conduct bench minor for the Blue Jackets. An two-minute penalty already on the board to Nashville created a brief four-on-four period, but just as it expired Manny Malhotra put a point-blank rebound past Mason for a goal classified as a short-handed marker at 10:07.
Nashville protested, claiming the play should have been blown dead as a result of an icing call, but to no avail. "One [linesman] made the icing call and then his partner must not have seen [him] make the call and just never blew the whistle," Hamhuis said. "He didn't wave it off, he just missed it. We all assumed it was icing. Mason was telling me it was icing. It was an unfortunate break."
With the score 1-1, the second period was a bit of a reprise of the first. The Predators, who built a shot advantage of 16-5 and a power-play advantage of five to one in the middle 20 minutes, grew increasingly frustrated as the total of near misses rose. Then Columbus scored a deflection goal by Jason Chimera--seemingly effortless by comparison--on a sudden retaliatory strike in the latter stages of the period.
"We had umpteen chances," Trotz said. "Sillinger hit the crossbar on a cross-pass. We had a couple chances where they just had flopping guys in front--[the puck] going off a shin pad, missing the net, hitting Leclaire."
Sillinger's chance came during a delayed penalty as Nashville was already skating on a power play. The veteran forward, who had scored Nashville's last three power-play goals entering Monday's game, had a lot of net to shoot at when he struck iron. "Paul [Kariya] made a great play and boom! Straight off the crossbar," he said. "Nine times out of 10 those go in. It was just one of those nights."
The sense of desperation among the Predators players was evident when the puck dropped to open the third period. But again, Nashville couldn't capitalize. Then at 6:38, defenseman Danny Markov tried to loft the puck out of his own zone up the middle of the ice. Mark Hartigan was in perfect position to knock it down only a few feet in front of Mason. Hartigan's backhander beat the Predators goaltender high over the shoulder for a 3-1 lead. That was more than enough against a Nashville offense that was struggling to finish.
"We had almost 30 chances to score tonight, which is a pretty high total," Trotz said. "But we came out a little short. We're just shooting blanks a little bit right now."
"Looking back at the game, it's amazing we only scored one goal," Hamhuis said. "We should have had a lot more. We outshot them tonight, which we can be happy with, but [we had] a couple of mistakes and they buried their chances. That's what it takes to win."
Notes: Nashville is now 5-2-1 against the Columbus Blue Jackets this season, including a 3-1-0 record at the Gaylord Entertainment Center... Dan Hamhuis' goal was his second tally in his last four games and his third goal in 11 games... Paul Kariya assisted on Hamhuis' goal and has points in five straight games (2g-4a=6pts) and in eight of his last nine (5g-7a=12pts). He needs only one more assist to hit the 50 mark... Yanic Perreault also assisted on Hamhuis' goal, and has assists in three straight games... Chris Mason made 25 saves on 28 Columbus shots in his second home start of the season. He recorded a 4-2 the win vs. St. Louis in his previous start at the GEC on March 20... The Predators have scored a power-play goal in each of their last three games and in nine of their last 10... Columbus forward Manny Malhotra's short-handed tally was the Blue Jackets' sixth short-handed goal vs. the Predators this season. The Blue Jackets have scored six of the 13 short-handed goals allowed by Nashville in 2005-06... The Predators penalty killers were a perfect eight for eight against Columbus... Tomas Vokoun, Marek Zidlicky and Steve Sullivan were scratched from Nashville's lineup due to injury, while Shea Weber, Scottie Upshall, Scott Nichol and Vern Fiddler were scratched as coach's decisions.
Video: Watch the game highlights (:45)
Audio: Listen to head coach Barry Trotz's post-game press conference (6:58)
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