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Preds hold off Blue Jackets 4-2

by Staff Writer / Nashville Predators

Jason Arnott and Manny Malhotra
Photo by John Russell
Jason Arnott, who scored two second-period power-play goals Saturday, faces off against Columbus' Manny Malhotra

Jason Arnott scored back-to-back power-play goals in a four-goal second period and the Predators defense staved off a third-period rally to secure a 4-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets Saturday night at the Gaylord Entertainment Center.

With the win, the Predators move to 12-4-2 on the season. They now travel to Columbus to face the Blue Jackets on Monday, then play a Wednesday game in Dallas before returning home against Vancouver on Thursday.

After the teams skated to a scoreless draw in the first period, J.P. Dumont tallied 11 seconds into the middle frame and Shea Weber added a goal just over seven minutes after that to put the Nashville Predators ahead 2-0. The Predators were awarded five power plays in the first period but were unable to light the lamp. The 9:38 of power play time contributed to a Predators shot advantage of 14-5 in the opening 20 minutes.

"I thought we came out with really good energy and purpose," Predators head coach Barry Trotz said. "We forced them into taking five penalties in the first period. We weren't able to capitalize but I think it set up a lot of things in the second period."

It was the carryover of Columbus' fifth penalty--holding against Sergei Fedorov--the produced the first Nashville goal. The Predators won the draw to open the period and the puck went back to blueliner Marek Zidlicky. Zidlicky lobbed the puck up to forward Steve Sullivan along the left boards in the offensive zone, and Sullivan flipped it out to the middle of the zone for Dumont. Dumont carried the puck in from the left circle, cutting in front of Columbus' goaltender Pascal Leclaire and backhanding the puck high over the netminder's glove-side shoulder.

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"It was just a great read by our defenseman," Dumont said. "Sullivan was just trying to get open there. When we use our speed, with all the skill we have and especially with our defenseman, they see the ice so well and they can jump in so other teams have to be careful.

"That was a great pass. After that I saw everything open up in front of me. Fiddler was in front of the net and the defenseman just took him on the long side of the net and it gave me open ice. I just went in and backhanded it and scored."

Shortly thereafter, the Predators began a brief parade to the penalty box,  with successive penalties to Scott Hartnell (:37), Sullivan (2:44), and Hartnell again (5:01). Both of Hartnell's offenses were tripping while Sullivan was dinged for inadvertently lifting a backhanded clearing attempt out of play--a delay of game penalty. Nashville killed off all three penalties, though, and scored on the shift after Hartnell's second penalty expired. After curling up from the right circle to the right point, winger Martin Erat sent a pass parallel to the blue line that Weber one-timed. The blast from the left point beat Leclaire through traffic to make it 2-0 at 7:25.

"That's huge," Weber said of his team's success in killing the three penalties early in the second. "We got into a little bit of trouble there taking those penalties back to back to back. But our [penalty killing] group came up huge for us and we kind of rolled after that."

Nashville went back on the power play at 8:44 thanks to a hooking call against David Vyborny. About a minute-and-a-half into that power-play, Columbus center Dan Fritsche was penalized for tripping. The play was allowed to continue under delayed penalty status as the Predators maintained possession. As Nashville headed up the ice, Dumont made a great play at the offensive blue line to dish the puck to Arnott. Dumont then lured the defensemen to him by charging the net while Arnott and Sullivan executed a give-and-go play on the left side. Arnott got the puck back with a lot of net to look at, and he didn't miss from the bottom of the left circle at 10:28.

That cancelled the first power play, but Fritsche's delayed call took effect. That set the stage for Arnott to rifle a shot from the top of the left circle 48 seconds later to beat Leclaire low. Nashville carried the 4-0 lead into the second intermission.

Highlights of Predators vs. Blue Jackets, Nov. 18, 2006 (:52)

The Predators began the third period with some more power play time, but came up empty and soon took some trips to the box themselves. Fedorov tallied with two Predators in the box at 7:52, with just eight seconds remaining on the five-on-three power play. Less than four minutes later, Vokoun wandered behind his own net and got caught out of position when Columbus collected the puck along the left wall. Vokoun recovered enough to get a piece of Fritsche's shot, but couldn't completely stop it. It crossed the line at 11:23 to cut the Jackets' deficit to two goals.

Columbus outshot Nashville 9-4 over the final 20 minutes and kept the pressure in Nashville's end as the clock ticked down. The Predators defense may have bent a little, but it didn't break and the home side held on for the 4-2 win.

"We knew that they were going to come at us," Arnott said. "Our defensemen were more poised back with the puck and made better plays than we did against Minnesota [on Thursday]. That's how we kept them off the board."

Nashville's Jordin Tootoo and Columbus' Steven Goertzen dropped the gloves 1:32 into the match and there was a fair amount of pushing and shoving after the whistles in the first few minutes. Even the unexpected duo of Jackets' star winger Rick Nash and Preds defenseman Marek Zidlicky, who have fought once before, were toe-to-toe and exchanging words before officials stepped in.

Tomas Vokoun stopped 28 of 30 shots through for the game. Nashville held a 14-5 shot advantage through one period, but Columbus evened the shots at 21 per team after 40 minutes of play.

Nashville forward Darcy Hordichuk was a healthy scratch. Forward Scottie Upshall and defenseman Mikko Lehtonen were sidelined with injuries. Upshall was out with a groin strain suffered on Wednesday against Columbus, while Lehtonen has been feeling the effects of a hit to the head he suffered on Thursday against Minnesota.

NOTES: Center Jason Arnott registered his second two-goal game of the season. He had gone seven games without a goal... Winger J.P. Dumont posted a goal and an assist, and now has 6 points (2g-4a) in his last three games... Goaltender Tomas Vokoun recorded his second straight win and is now 9-1-1 over his last 11 games. He allowed only 24 goals in that 11-game span... With his two assists Saturday, winger Steve Sullivan now has 6 points (1g-5a) in his last three games and 20 points (6g-14a) for the season... Defenseman Shea Weber scored his third goal in his last seven games... Winger Martin Erat has assists in three straight games... Defenseman Kimmo Timonen collected one assist Saturday to extend his point streak to four games (1g-3a=4pts). He's notched a point in six of his last seven games (2g-4a=6pts)... Nashville scored three power-play goals, netting three or more for the first time this season... The Predators outscored Columbus 4-0 in the second period and have now outscored opponents 21-11 in the middle stanza... Nashville is 9-0-2 when leading after two periods... The team has gone 12-1-2 in its last 15 games and is 5-1-1 for the month of November.


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