Thirty-six saves from Curtis McElhinney backstopped the Columbus Blue Jackets to a 3-0 win over the Nashville Predators on Monday at Bridgestone Arena.
The shutout loss ended the Predators three-game winning streak and blemished their perfect home record in the preseason. Nashville will face Columbus one more time this week in Ohio on Saturday, the final exhibition contest for both clubs before the regular season.
Jackets forward Artem Anisimov broke the scoreless
tie with roughly six minutes to play in the first period. Columbus carried the 1-0 advantage to the locker room, despite being outshot 12-3 in the game’s first 20 minutes.
“I don’t know that it was ‘one of those games;’ I think they skated really well and moved the puck around us,” Nashville forward Eric Nystrom said. “They were on us pretty quick after a good start by us. We had a lot of power play chances that we had a tough time converting on and then we gave up a shorthanded goal against. That was the story of the game.”
Missing on three power play opportunities in the first period - and six overall for the game - cost the Predators the chance to score first, something they’d done in all of their previous four preseason matchups.
“There were some good chances on the power play, but I think their goaltender played a good game,” Predators Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. “We need to do a better job of getting in front of him and taking his vision away. We had 30-plus shots and 60 toward the net, but I think we didn’t had the chances that we really need to be successful. I didn’t think we did a good enough job of taking the goaltender’s vision to allow a second opportunity or a rebound goal because he can’t control the puck.”
The Predators shortcomings on the power play were accentuated in the second period when Jackets defenseman James Wisniewski slapped a puck past Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne while Columbus was a man short. The two-goal advantage was more than enough for 31-year-old netminder McElhinney, who delivered the Blue Jackets second shutout of the exhibition schedule and fifth win.
“I felt like I was fighting it tonight a little bit, but I thought the guys did a great job on those first couple of shots,” McElhinney said. “It was a well fought effort for us on our end which is nice to see. I thought we played pretty well as a team tonight…They were terrific. Whether it was picking up sticks, clearing pucks or whatnot, they did a great job. Hats off to them tonight for cleaning up some of my mess.”
Nashville now has four-straight days without games of any kind before their final preseason tune up against the Jackets. The Predators exhibition record stands at 3-2-0, and the Blue Jackets hold a league-best 5-1-0 mark.