The penalty box was a popular place Friday night, but Yanic Perreault
's even-strength goal 1:22 into the third period turned out to be the difference in the Predators' 3-2 preseason win over the Columbus Blue Jackets at the Gaylord Entertainment Center. Special teams played a big role in the game, though, as the teams combined for three power play goals and 27 penalties—the result of the National Hockey League's new standard of enforcement on hooking, holding and interference.
"[The referees] told us before the game that there was basically going to be no tolerance for anything," Predators head coach Barry Trotz said. "There was no tolerance, and that's fine. It was the same for both teams. We've got to adjust to that."
The penalty calls started early, as two Blue Jackets were sent to the box within the first minute of the game. The Predators capitalized on the two-man advantage when defenseman Danny Markov's blast from the left point deflected through a cluster of players in the slot and sailed lazily over goaltender Marc Denis.
The Blue Jackets answered with a power play goal of their own with just over three minutes remaining in the first period. Defenseman Aaron Johnson's shot from the high slot beat Predators goaltender Tomas Vokoun during a delayed penalty call, and moments after Vokoun robbed a Columbus shooter with a stellar right leg save.
Two minutes later, center David Legwand was hauled down from behind as he skated in alone on Denis. Legwand was awarded a penalty shot, but was stopped by the Columbus goaltender to keep the score knotted at 1-1.
"We got lots of chances," Trotz said. "We could have probably buried about two or three more pucks in the first period. We had some real good pressure, but their goaltender played really good."
The Predators recaptured the lead, 2-1, midway through the second period with Columbus forward Trevor Letowski off for hooking. Again it was a defenseman lighting the lamp on the power play, as Kimmo Timonen fired a point shot that found its way into the upper right corner of the Columbus net.
Nashville extended the lead to 3-1 on Perreault's game-winning goal, 1:22 into the third period. Alexander Radulov fell during a battle in the corner but delivered the puck to Libor Pivko, who was streaking toward the left post. Pivko fired a centering pass to Perreault, whose shot from the slot squeezed its way through Denis.
"It was a nice play by my linemate, and I was able to get a good shot right in front of the goalie," Perreault said.
Columbus cut the lead to 3-2 with less than six minutes remaining in the game—and only seconds after a Predators penalty expired—when Jaroslav Balastik put his own rebound past goaltender Brian Finley. Finley split the 60-minute game with Vokoun, and saved 9 of the 10 shots he faced. Vokoun stopped 15 of 16, and Nashville outshot the Blue Jackets 33-28.
Nashville finished the night two for 10 on the power play, while Columbus went one for 10 with the man advantage. Predators forward Scottie Upshall racked up 17 penalty minutes in the second period alone, with the bulk of those minutes coming from a five-minute fighting major and a game misconduct penalty. Upshall, who is fighting for a job with the Predators, was ejected for not having his jersey tied down during a scrap with Columbus' Rostislav Klesla.
"It's like not doing your helmet up," Trotz said. "He's vying for a spot and by not tying down, basically I didn't get to see him tonight. So he wasted one opportunity."
As is the case for all National Hockey League preseason games, a shootout exhibition followed after regulation play ended. Friday night's shootout had no bearing on the outcome of the game, but was won by the Predators by a score of 1-0. Radulov notched the only goal after using a series of nifty moves to fake out Denis.
The Predators return to the ice Saturday night, as they face the St. Louis Blues in Kansas City's Kemper Arena in another preseason match-up. Nashville defeated the Blues on Wednesday by a score of 4-3. Saturday's game starts at 7:35 p.m. CDT and can be heard locally on WNSR SportsRadio 650 AM, one of the Predators flagship radio broadcasters for the 2005-06 season. The pre-game show begins at 7 p.m.