It'll be difficult for the Nashville Predators to fly back home without a collective smile on their faces.
The Preds battled back to collect a point before they ultimately fell to the Columbus Blue Jackets, 4-3 in overtime, to conclude the second half of a back-to-back set. The contest concludes a stretch of five games in seven nights for the Preds - all on the road - and the group collected at least a point in every single one.
A wild third period saw the Predators tie the game late after the Blue Jackets went up 3-1 with just over six minutes to play in regulation. And although there was plenty of disappointment to go around after the OT loss, there was solace with the past week's achievements.
"This was a battle," Preds defenseman Mattias Ekholm said. "We end up in those situations where I feel like we always respond, and we always find some good out of the negativity… We got two quick ones back, we got a point, and we know these points are going to be huge down down the stretch. We'll take one, but two would've been great."
Nashville entered the final period down 1-0 and needing some kind of break to go their way. Seventeen shots in 20 minutes helped to spark the visitors' rally and a blind, spinning pass from Ekholm to Nick Bonino got the game even at 4:31.
Video: NSH@CBJ: Bonino buries great pass from Ekholm
Later, when two goals in 11 seconds for Columbus had the Blue Jackets up 3-1, the Predators' resolve proved true. Viktor Arvidsson gave his club life with his sixth goal in seven games, and then, less than a minute after that, Ekholm finished off a 2-on-1 with Colton Sissons as he wired a shot into the twine to even the score once more.
Video: NSH@CBJ: Ekholm ties it on astounding effort
In overtime, the Blue Jackets did to Nashville what the Preds did to the Blackhawks the night before - controlled possession and never gave the opposition a chance, as Artemi Panarin ended it on the power play.
"We're chasing the game, but guys played hard," Preds Head Coach Peter Laviolette said "I don't think it was the prettiest game for us, but we competed and kept working… and then it seemed like it got away from us in the third there, but again, boys kept pushing and battling."
With Juuse Saros falling ill prior to Thursday's contest, Pekka Rinne tended the net for the second time in as many nights, participating in his 600th career game in the process, in less than ideal circumstances.
"He played great," Laviolette said of RInne. "He made a lot of big saves. It was not what was scheduled, but those are the cards we were dealt and I thought he played terrific."
Let's be clear: the Predators lost on Thursday night, but with the team scoring twice in the final five minutes to force overtime and extend their point streak to seven consecutive games, it's easy to be positive.
Add in the fact the Predators' last five games have all come in seven days and on the road - and they have points in all of them (3-0-2) - well, you can't really fault them for being upbeat as their plane finally turns its nose toward Tennessee.
"It wasn't an easy one, five games in seven nights with the travel and time zones and moving around," Laviolette said. "You want to win all the hockey games, but we'll walk out of here with a lot of points and head back home and recoup for a day."
Video: NSH@CBJ: Rinne fends off Foligno at the doorstep
No. 600 for No. 35:
Pekka Rinne hit another career milestone on Thursday night when he participated in his 600th NHL game. Here are some numbers to put the feat in perspective:
Rinne is the fourth Preds player to play 600 games with the franchise, joining David Legwand, Shea Weber and Martin Erat. He is the 48th goaltender in NHL history to play 600 games and just the third Finnish goaltender to hit the mark.
In addition, Rinne became the sixth active goalie to play 600 games (Luongo, Lundqvist, Fleury, Miller, Ward). Of the 31 goaltenders in the Hockey Hall of Fame, only 16 have played at least 600 games.
Finally, Rinne owns the third-best goals-against average (2.37) among goaltenders with at least 600 games played in the NHL.
Video: NSH Recap: Predators rally late, but fall in overtime
With Saros missing Thursday's game due to illness, the Predators recalled goaltender Troy Grosenick from AHL Milwaukee prior to the contest on an emergency basis.
Mattias Ekholm recorded multiple points for the fourth consecutive game, becoming just the third defenseman in Preds franchise history to accomplish the feat. Ekholm joins Kimmo Timonen and Roman Josi with the mark, and he also extended his point streak to five games overall to tie a career high.
With their next outing not scheduled until the second day of the weekend, the Preds will head home for some much needed rest before concluding their season-long, six-game trip on Sunday afternoon in Carolina.