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Post-Game Musings: at Columbus

by Jim Diamond / Nashville Predators
In defeating the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-0 Thursday night, the Predators got back to their winning ways. It was the final game of Nashville’s three-game in four-night road trip that started off with back-to-back games Monday on Long Island and Tuesday in New York.

After a well-deserved game off, Pekka Rinne was spectacular between the pipes in Nationwide Arena Thursday. He faced 20 shots over the course of the first two periods, but the Blue Jackets really turned up the offensive pressure in the third. In the course of making 18 saves in the game’s final frame, Rinne made a couple of jaw-dropping stops.

Just 38 seconds into the third, Rinne denied Columbus captain Rick Nash’s shot from the left circle with a blocker save. At the 6:20 mark, Rinne’s famous glove made an appearance as it calmly snared Fedor Tyutin’s wrist shot from in close on the left side.

Tuesday’s loss to the Rangers halted the Predators five-game winning streak, but Thursday’s victory was an important one, as it represented the first of four-straight Central Division games the team has before next week’s All-Star break.

Marty Loves Facing the Blue Jackets: Count Martin Erat as one Predator who loves to face the Columbus Blue Jackets. Entering the game, Erat had 14 goals and 46 points in 52 games played against the Blue Jackets in his NHL career. Thursday night, Erat added to those totals with a goal and an assist in the game’s second period. Just past the midway point of the second, Erat broke into the Columbus zone on a 2-on-1 with Sergei Kostitsyn. From the right side, Kostitsyn passed to Erat in the low slot, and Erat had an easy one-timer for his 11th goal of the season. Just two minutes later, and with the Predators on the power play, Erat found Mike Fisher at the left post for an easy tap-in, giving Nashville a 2-0 lead.

Welcome Back Smitty: After missing the last five games with a lower-body injury, Jerred Smithson played in Thursday night’s game against the Blue Jackets. He was called upon to fill a familiar role, especially in the second period when Nick Spaling was sent off because of a tripping minor. Smithson entered the game tops among Predators forwards in shorthanded ice time per game at 2:14. Since Spaling is another top penalty killing forward, having Smithson back in the lineup was even that much more important since he incurred the team’s first penalty of the game. The Predators were disciplined and took just three minor penalties in the game. Smithson led all Predator forwards with 2:40 of shorthanded ice time and even added an assist on Shea Weber’s shorthanded empty-net goal in the final minute. Smithson won eight of the 11 faceoffs he took in the game as well.

Matchup Chess Game: With Francis Bouillon taking the injured Ryan Suter’s spot on the left side of Nashville’s top defensive pairing, it was interesting to see the matchups the two coaches threw out against one another. Columbus’ top forward is right wing Rick Nash, which means when he was out on the ice, he was on the same side of the ice as the Predators’ left wing and left defenseman. At 6’4” and 219 pounds, Nash had quite the size advantage over the 5’8” 198 pound Bouillon. Since the Blue Jackets were the home team Thursday night, they had the last change before faceoffs. Bouillon played 23:28 in the game, which was a season high for the New York City, New York native.

F Jerred Smithson (On his return): “It’s good to be back in the mix. I just had a nagging injury that just needed some time. It’s good to be back and I am going to try and help out any way I can.”

F Martin Erat (On his goal): “They tried the same play in the first period, and I think the D just read it wrong. We jumped in on the play and we had a 2-on-1. Sergei gave me a beautiful pass.”

Barry Trotz (On Columbus under Interim Coach Todd Richards): “They are just playing hard. Todd’s got them playing a hard-working, forechecking game. They get it below the goal line and they are doing a really good in terms of their forechecking. You have to match that work ethic, and to beat that system, you have to support the puck.”

G Pekka Rinne, Nashville: 38 saves en route to his fourth shutout of the season and 24th of his career
F Martin Erat, Nashville: One goal and one assist
F Sergei Kostitsyn, Nashville: Assisted on game-winning goal, strong defensive play in own end all game

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