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Post-Game Musings: vs. Columbus

by Jim Diamond / Nashville Predators
After defeating the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-1 Monday night, the Predators concluded the season series with a 5-0-1 record against them, and in the process improved their record in Central Division games to 10-2-2.

The Predators have won three in a row overall and 11 of their last 13 to open up a nine point lead on ninth place Minnesota.

For the second time in as many games, the Predators came out fast in the first period Monday night. Mike Fisher’s power-play goal was the only goal of the opening period, but the Predators outchanced and outshot the Blue Jackets early. After one, Nashville held a 12-3 advantage in shots, but Columbus closed the game quickly in the second by throwing 16 shots on Pekka Rinne in the middle frame.

Columbus captain Rick Nash tallied on one of those shots to even the score, but the Predators got a momentum-swinging power-play goal from Fisher with less than 30 seconds remaining in the second to grab a one-goal lead heading into the third. Despite getting just five shots on goal in the third, the Predators scored twice to account for the final scoring margin.

Tuesday night’s game in Chicago will complete the second half of a back-to-back set, and will conclude the Predators pre-All-Star Break schedule. The game against the Blackhawks will also represent the last game of four consecutive against Central Division opponents.

Mike Likes the Blue Jackets: Monday night was the sixth and final meeting of the 2011-12 regular season between the Predators and the Columbus Blue Jackets. Fisher’s goal at 8:07 of the first period Monday night was his 10th goal of the season. Less than 30 seconds before the end of the second period, Fisher scored a power-play goal, giving him two on the night. Six of Fisher’s 11 goals this campaign have come against the Blue Jackets. After missing Nashville’s season opening game in Columbus, Fisher has posted at least one goal in each of the other five matchups between the teams. Known as more of a playmaker than a scorer, Fisher went without an assist against the Blue Jackets this season.

Power Play Continues to Roll: Fisher’s power-play goal late in the second, followed by Patric Hornqvist’s late in the third, gave the Preds two man-advantage markers in five opportunities Monday night. In the six games played against the Blue Jackets this season, Nashville was 9-for-17 on the power play (52.9%). Four of the nine power-play goals against Columbus came off the stick of Fisher, with Hornqvist, Ryan Suter, Sergei Kostitsyn, Colin Wilson, and David Legwand getting the others. On the season, the Predators have the league’s second-best power play with a 22.3% success rate, and the third best on home ice at 23.6%. Fisher and Hornqvist’s goals Monday night were Nashville’s 36th and 37th power-play goals of the season. They had just 41 all of last season.

There’s Something About Pekka: Monday night’s victory over Columbus was Pekka Rinne’s eighth consecutive victory. That win is a personal milestone for Rinne, and it also establishes a new franchise record for consecutive wins by a goaltender. Prior to this current stretch, the big Finn had won seven in a row once. For the season, Rinne has 27 of Nashville’s 29 victories. Rinne also improved his career record against Columbus to 14-4-1. Following the game, Head Coach Barry Trotz was asked about the key to the team’s stingy goals allowed figure lately, and he had a simple response of “35,” referring to Rinne’s sweater number.

F Mike Fisher (On his success against Columbus): “It would be nice to see them a couple of more times, but for whatever reason, it is kind of a funny stat. I have to make sure I keep going and see if I can score against some other teams.”

G Pekka Rinne (On the second period): “We started the game pretty well, and they didn’t have a good first period. Then we kind of got away from our game a little bit in the second period and they responded. They got the momentum going.”

Head Coach Barry Trotz (On concluding the season series with Columbus): “This was the one game in terms of the score wasn’t as tight as the other ones. They challenged us all the time.”

F Mike Fisher, Nashville: Two goals
G Pekka Rinne, Nashville: 25 saves (15 in the pivotal second period)
D Ryan Suter, Nashville: Two assists in first game back after missing three with an upper-body injury

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