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Preds Beat Jackets; Complete Perfect Home Stand

by Thomas Willis / Nashville Predators

Colin Wilson’s goal late in regulation gave the Nashville Predators a 2-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday.

The victory capped off a spotless four-game home stand for the Preds, with the club collecting four-straight, one-goal wins. Wilson’s backhanded game-winner came with roughly two minutes remaining in regulation and Jackets goaltender Curtis McElhinney off to the side of the crease.

Craig Smith took two hacks at the puck from the side of the Jackets net before the puck squirted over to Wilson all alone in the blue paint. The winger quickly collected the biscuit and put it into the gaping cage with his back to the net.

“We were hard on the puck and I put it back to [Calle] Jarnkrok who got it over to Smith for a great shot,” Wilson said. “After [I got the puck] all I had to do was put it in the empty net.”

Nashville bench boss Peter Laviolette was pleased after his team’s victory: a game where the Predators pounded 42 shots on goal and received 21 saves from goaltender Pekka Rinne.

“We were solid from start to finish,” Laviolette said. “There wasn’t really anything that I didn’t like about the game. Our guys were fast and competitive and relentless. [That’s a] good combination of words to put together that usually equals a win.”

The home team’s victory over a struggling Jackets club placed the Predators in a tie for the NHL-lead in points. The club is now 10-1-1 at home and has won six-straight games at Bridgestone Arena.


Wilson Buries One:

During the Preds perfect four-game home stand, Wilson has collected four points (two goals) and repeatedly been a difference maker on the ice. Center Mike Ribeiro said on Saturday the forward has been a big contributor the past few weeks and that Wilson’s hot play was evident against the Jackets.

In the third period alone, Wilson had a partial breakaway chance where he drove hard to the net and minutes later, he tallied the game-winner.

“Every game [Wilson’s] been getting better and he’s holding onto the puck a little bit more than he was at the beginning of the season,” Ribeiro said. “He’s skating and protecting the puck well and bringing the puck to the net. He and his line have been great for the last three weeks and we need that.”

“He’s been excellent all year, and he’s one of those guys that maybe the points weren’t coming at the beginning of the year maybe as frequently as he would like,” Laviolette said of Wilson. “I think it’s nice that in the last six or seven games, he’s gotten some points and been able to contribute in a game like tonight, but I think Colin Wilson has been good from the beginning of the year to the start of this game, and he’s been really sharp.”

Nashville’s second line of Jarnkrok, Smith and Wilson has given the team the secondary scoring lacking in earlier parts of the campaign, and that was the difference against Columbus.

“It was going to be frustrating if one didn’t end up going in,” Wilson said. “It was nice to see one go in. But [either way] it’s fun playing right now and a fun line to be on...We created a lot of good chances and just stuck with it.”


Pinching Defensemen:

One of the dynamics featured in Laviolette’s offensive system is the encouragement of his defensemen to pinch in the offensive zone in order for the Predators to continue on the attack.

“Our [defensemen] can always pinch,” Laviolette said after Saturday’s win. “I thought our D were excellent tonight in the offensive zone. There were so many pucks that came around the wall where they were down to the hash marks or deeper if they needed to be. And they were aggressive with it; their mindset was aggressive, and we had good support from the third forward to be able to do that.”

With a defensive unit as talented on both sides of the puck as Nashville’s holds, the club’s D-corps has commented throughout the season that they’ve enjoyed the freedom to help create more offensively. In the second period, Roman Josi exercised his right to get involved in the play by pushing the puck down the wall on the right side and firing a shot on net.

McElinney stopped the original chance, but Ribeiro quickly scooped up the rebound and put the puck in the net after wrapping around the back of cage.

“Josi was coming and I didn’t know where to go at first,” said Ribeiro. “I saw him coming down the wall, and I thought about going in front of the net to give him an option for a pass, but then he shot it. Then I was in the right place at the right time and the puck was still spinning when I got it, but I was able to put it [in the net].”

“That goal happened more off the cycle where he was able to grab possession of the puck,” Laviolette said of Ribeiro’s goal. “It was a little bit risky. The [Blue Jackets] weak side forward had snuck out a little bit on Roman there. It was little close to be picked off, but it got a bounce and went over and Josi ended up going down the wall with it, which was the right play. Then it goes back to the mindset of putting the puck at the net and Ribeiro was able to pick it up from the other side of the net and score a goal.”

The Preds have three defensemen in their Top 10 players in scoring with Josi, Shea Weber and Ryan Ellis all with 10 points or more.


Endgame:

Along with Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, St. Louis, Montreal and the New York Islanders, the Preds have 34 points on the campaign, tops in the NHL. Nashville is now 10-1-1 on home ice and have not lost at Bridgestone Arena since Oct. 25 against the Penguins, a six-game stretch of success in Music City. The Predators went 4-0-0 to finish out their four-game homestand, winning all four contests by one goal. Nashville is now 11-3-2 in one-goal games this season. Preds defenseman Seth Jones appeared in his 100th career game on Saturday, finishing with a plus-1 rating and four shots on goal.

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