Photo by John Russell
Paul Kariya celebrates his first-period goal with Jerred Smithson and Scott Walker. Kariya added a second tally in the third.
Scott Hartnell and Paul Kariya each posted two goals and an assist and three other Predators had multi-point games as Nashville overwhelmed the Columbus Blue Jackets 7-2 Saturday night at the Gaylord Entertainment Center. With the score 3-1 early in the third period, Predators goaltender Tomas Vokoun stopped a penalty shot by Columbus forward Trevor Letowski and Nashville piled on two more goals over the next six minutes to build a comfortable cushion.
"It was probably the turning point during the game," said Predators center Yanic Perreault, who netted one of Nashville's three power-play goals. "[Vokoun] made a big save. Instead of it being 3-2 and a one-goal game, we came back and scored a couple goals after that. So it made a big difference tonight."
With the win, the Predators improve their record to 29-12-6 overall and 12-1-1 against Central Division opponents.
A short-handed goal by Letowski at 8:46 of the first period put Columbus up 1-0, but Hartnell tied the game less than two minutes later when Greg Johnson's pass from the right circle to the far post redirected off Hartnell's skate and past Blue Jackets goalie Pascal Leclaire. The goal was in dispute for several minutes because of the possibilty that Hartnell had illegally kicked the puck into the net. After reviewing replays, video goal judge Bob Sloan determined that it was indeed a valid goal.
"[The referee] waved it off at the beginning and I was like, 'Oh, no. My luck again. Here we go,' " Hartnell said. "Then I heard they were going upstairs [for a review] and then I said, 'Well, I didn't have a kicking motion so there's a good chance it might have counted.' And it did."
Nashville took the lead in the final minute of the opening period on a spinning backhander in front of the net by Kariya, and extended the margin to 3-1 with Perreault's 18th goal of the season--a power-play score just 1:29 into the second period. On the latter goal, defenseman Marek Zidlicky fired a brilliant pass to Perreault cutting toward the net from the left side and Perreault redirected the puck high over the extended leg pad of Leclaire. It would be the only offensive production for either team in the middle frame.
The third opened with Letowski's penalty shot opportunity, awarded just 28 seconds into the final period because Nashville defenseman Dan Hamhuis tripped the Blue Jackets forward from behind while diving for the puck. Vokoun made an easy stop on Letowski's low shot--the first time in four penalty shots against Nashville this season that Vokoun has stymied the shooter.
"They were definitely still in the game," Smithson said of Columbus at the start of the third. "We knew we had to come out and play 20 minutes hard. We wanted to play like it was a nothing-nothing game. As soon as we got that first one you could kind of see their shoulders slouch a bit. We just kept plugging away."
That "first one" was the Predators' fourth goal of the night, and it came from the stick of Zidlicky on the power play 5:07 into the final period. Zidlicky received a pass from defense partner Kimmo Timonen and rifled a one-timer from the top of the left circle that clanked into the net off the goal pipe. Hartnell then pocketed his second of the night a minute and a half later, putting Nashville's third power-play goal through the legs of Leclaire to make it 5-1 at the 6:38 mark.
"Shooting pucks to the net, that's how you're going to score goals," Hartnell said. "We've got defensemen that can make plays. Kimmo saw that I was just going to the net and the d-man tried to block the shot himself, and I was able to get it through the five-hole."
Columbus whittled the lead back to three on Bryan Berard's power-play goal off a cross-ice pass from Nikolai Zherdev at 13:13, but the Predators wasted little time squashing any inkling of hope the Blue Jackets had of a comeback. Fourteen seconds after Berard's goal, Kariya blistered a slapshot from the right circle into the top of the net, and eight seconds later, Darcy Hordichuk barreled in on goal and willed the puck past Leclaire to make it 7-2 at 13:35.
"We've tried to score the cute goals, but in this league there are only a few cute ones," Vokoun said. "You've got to score the dirty ones."
The Predators peppered Leclaire with 48 shots for the game--their highest output of the season. They outshot the Blue Jackets in the first and third periods, by margins of 16-7 and 21-10 respectively. Leclaire stopped 41 of those shots, while Vokoun turned away 27 of 29 at the other end of the rink for his 23rd win of the season.
"We wanted to get two points today," Timonen said. "We put in a 60-minute effort today and we got a lot of shots. We had everybody pulling the same way."
The Predators have now scored 23 goals against Columbus over the last four meetings between the two clubs. Nashville leads the season series with a 4-0-1 record, and the two division foes will meet twice more before the Olympic break begins on Feb. 12.
"In the past it's always been really tough games back and forth," Hartnell said. "This year it seems like we've had their number. But they're a great team and they've got a lot of skill that can crank it up at any time. We were able to nullify that tonight and shut their big line [of Zherdev, Rick Nash and Sergei Fedorov] down."
"They were saying before the game we are their rivals and they want to beat us," Vokoun said. "We just made a statement. We took care of business today and won the game and played well."
Notes: Nashville is now 4-0-3 in its last seven games... The Predators earned their 29th win of the season Saturday night. That's the third-highest win total for one season in franchise history... Nashville is 15-5-2 when its opponent scores the first goal of the game... Yanic Perreault's second-period goal extends his point streak to seven games (5g-4a-9pts in that span)... Paul Kariya posted a goal and two assists against Columbus Saturday night and now has points in six straight games (3g-6a-9pts)... Jerred Smithson assisted on three of the Predators' goals Saturday for the first multi-point game of his NHL career... Kimmo Timonen's two-assist night extended his point-scoring streak to four games... Tomas Vokoun is 3-0-3 in his last six decisions... Scott Walker registered an assist on Nashville's second goal, and the Predators now have a record of 11-0-3 this season with him in the lineup... Greg Johnson, Martin Erat and Jeremy Stevenson each had an assist against Columbus. Erat's extended his point-scoring streak to four games (4g-1a-5pts)... Rookie defenseman Ryan Suter posted a +3 rating on Saturday--his 21st birthday... The Predators went three for seven on the power play against the Jackets, and now have nine power-play goals in their last five contests... A new Predators record for the fastest three goals in a period by both teams was established in the third period Saturday: 22 seconds... Seven goals ties the Predators record for the most goals scored by Nashville in a home game... Jamie Allison and Scott Nichol were scratches for Nashville... Attendance at the Gaylord Entertainment Center was 15,416.
Video: Watch the game highlights (1:47)
Audio: Listen to head coach Barry Trotz' post-game press conference (2:18)
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