Photo by John Russell
David Legwand scored the game-winner on Columbus' goalie Fredrik Norrena 13:45 into the game and collected an assist as well Saturday.
The Nashville Predators defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets 2-1 Saturday night at Nashville Arena. Gilbert Brule got Columbus on the board first with a goal 1:17 into the game, but Paul Kariya answered by cleaning up a rebound of a David Legwand shot at the 4:25 mark and Legwand himself tallied at 13:45 to put Nashville ahead for good.
With the win, the Predators complete an 8-0 season sweep of the Blue Jackets and improve their overall record to 46-18-6. Nashville opened a three-point lead on the idle Detroit Red Wings Saturday night for the top spot in the NHL and are just one win away from the 100-point mark. The Predators return to action Tuesday at Nashville Arena with the first of back-to-back home-and-home games against the Red Wings.
The Predators dominated the opening 20 minutes, outshooting the Blue Jackets 16-8. Brule's early goal, for which the Columbus rookie tipped a point shot and quickly deposited the rebound around goaltender Tomas Vokoun, didn't seem to phase Nashville at all. Just 45 seconds later, Predators defenseman Marek Zidlicky set up Paul Kariya for a very close chance that Columbus goaltender Fredrik Norrena trapped under his leg pads while moving from left to right.
On Legwand's tying tally, Martin Erat sent the puck from behind the goal to Legwand in front. The 26-year-old center got off a point-blank shot that was saved by Norrena, but Legwand stuck with the play and got enough of the puck with a stick swing to send it sliding toward the right post. Kariya was in place to insure the puck crossed the goal line, making it a 1-1 game with his 23rd of the season.
The unit of Kariya, Legwand and Erat struck again in the second half of the period. Kariya carried the puck into the zone, put on the brakes in the right corner and centered to defenseman Dan Hamhuis who had quietly crept into the slot. Hamhuis had time to measure Norrena before firing, but the goalie got enough of the shot to knock it down. Just then, Legwand was moving left to right in front of the Columbus net and simply gathered the puck and slid it to the left of Norrena for his 23rd tally of the season.
The second period was a relatively even one, with Columbus outshooting the Predators 11-10. Nashville had three power-play chances but was unable to capitalize on any of them. The line of Kariya, Legwand and Erat nearly made it 3-1 with a couple of sensational scoring opportunities early in the third, but the ice tilted in Columbus' favor as the final period wore on. The game ended up in nail-biting fashion, with Legwand taking a hooking penalty with 21.7 seconds remaining. Columbus called a time-out and pulled Norrena, then won the ensuing offensive zone face-off. Sergei Fedorov's shot off the draw missed the net but rebounded off the end boards onto the top of the goal cage before falling into the crease. With 17 seconds remaining, Jackets forward Nikolai Zherdev took the puck and fired a shot that Timonen, who had been knocked down in front of the net, blocked with his back. Nashville's Jerred Smithson promptly cleared the loose puck, securing the victory for the home club.
NOTES: The Predators have now gone 7-0-3 in last 10 games (second time this season they have earned points in 10 straight games other time was Oct. 14-Nov. 4 when they went 9-0-1) and improved record to 46-18-6 for 98 points. Nashville was 42-20-8 for 92 points after 70 games last season... The Predators are 20-5-2 against Central Division opponents this season... Nashville is 21-12 in one-goal games, 11-10-3 when allowing the first goal and 31-1-5 when leading after two periods... Tomas Vokoun is 4-0-3 in his last seven decisions... Nashville now scored 242 goals, 17 shy of the club record 259, established last season. The Predators have scored 152 5-on-5 goals. They have outscored the opposition 86-51 in the first period and 87-54 in the second period... Paul Kariya had a goal and an assist, extending his consecutive game point-streak to five games (3g-4a=7pts). Kariya is one of three Predators to have appeared in all 70 games to date (Dumont and Suter are the others) and Predators are now 19-1-0 when he scores a goal... David Legwand's game-winning goal vs. Columbus was his sixth of season, a single season best for him. He is the club's all-time leader in that category with 26. He also possesses a team-high +30 plus/minus rating, on pace for the best plus/minus in franchise history (best entering this season was +16, by Mark Eaton in 2003-04). Legwand has 23 goals and 33 assists for 56 points--all personal highs--in 66 games... Sixteen different players have scored a game-winning goal this season (Arnott and Legwand lead with six each)... Predators penalty killers have killed 17 of the last 18 power plays against and are 8-for-8 in the past two games... Nashville was without scratches Vitaly Vishnevski, Scott Nichol, Peter Forsberg and Steve Sullivan.
NASHVILLE HEAD COACH BARRY TROTZ
General game impressions...
They've got a good young base there so you know they play hard. We've had good games, there is never much separating the two teams.
I thought we responded when they scored. Their second shift of the game they scored a goal so you know I thought we responded really well and played outstanding in the first. We had a ton of chances and I thought Norrena was real strong. I thought in the second period, we came out a little flat in the second, and then we started getting it going and drew some penalties just by starting to skate and work.
We should have had them on the ropes but we just couldn't put them away. I mean that was probably my message... We had them 2-1 and we had a chance to bury them a little bit and we didn't. Then we came out in the 3rd period and skated really well, had two quality chances in the first minute and a half, could have had them there. But we just sorta couldn't get rid of them, if you will. They (Columbus) showed a lot of resilience in hanging in there, then at the end you know we took a penalty and it made it real hectic at the end but guys hung on and it was a real solid game.
You know when we needed someone to jump start us I thought tonight PK (Paul Kariya) and Leggy (Legwand) sorta jump started us there and two goal, sorta playoff style goals. You know, one on transition taking it to the net and second effort type thing that happened on Legwand's goal. Also on the first goal a great second effort by Leggy (Legwand) keeping the puck alive and then Paul (Kariya) was able to get to the loose puck and tip it in. So those are the kind of goals you're going to have to score in the playoffs.
I thought you know Columbus played very well tonight and we hung on to win and that's all that counts. But Tomas (Vokoun) was real solid for us when we needed him to be so it was a good effort all around.
On winning with so many injuries...
It's important, I think you find out a lot about players who are able to dig down and play well. I thought you know when you go down the lineup everyone contributed in some way or form, you know some guys didn't have their best nights but they still found some way to contribute in the game.
PREDATORS GOALTENDER TOMAS VOKOUN
On the game...
There have been some close games. It's always difficult to win eight games in a row. I think it's a good achievement, especially how there has been so much talk about the rivalry between us and them in the past. No matter who you play, when you step out on the ice, you want to win.
On the win against Columbus
They always play hard. We've played some close games. It's not like we are beating them by a large amount. It's always a tough game against them and today wasn't any different.
On responding after Columbus scored
I think we responded well after we gave up the first goal pretty early. Then we kind of started buzzing around and we played pretty good in the first period. Their goalie played well today, that's why the score was 2-1.
PREDATORS LEFT WING PAUL KARIYA
On the win
At this stage of the season, getting two points against anybody is huge. They gave us a tough battle tonight. It wasn't easy, for sure.
On the Columbus Blue Jackets team
They have a lot of talented players out there. After they changed coaches and Ken Hitchcock got there, I think they've played really well defensively. It's always tough games.
On the last two wins helping prepare for Detroit
We have to get our rest tomorrow and get prepared for them. We know it's going to be a high-energy couple games and really enjoyable. Those are the games you live for.
PREDATORS DEFENSEMAN KIMMO TIMONEN
On impact of the win
There are no easy games in this league. Even if they don't make the playoffs, they still have good players. They want to show their coach that they want to stay on the team for next year, too. They have to play for (their) jobs. We kind of knew they were going to come out hard. I don't think that was our best game, but we got two points.
On the upcoming home-and-home games against Detroit
It's going to be huge. It's going to be a lot of fun. That's why you play these games to get ready for those games. It's going to be a huge two games.
BLUE JACKETS DEFENSEMAN ROSTISLAV KLESLA
On the season series with Nashville...
"It's not very good. They outplayed us almost every time. Tonight we tried to get that one win but they have a pretty good team. We just gotta find a way how to beat them."
"They played a pretty good game, they got the lead and we just couldn't score on our chances. Didn't capitalize on the power-play."
"Yeah it's pretty intense every time we play each other. They got some tough players, we got some tough players. So it's pretty good games. People gotta like it. It's entertaining. It's just too bad they win all the games against us."
COLUMBUS FORWARD RICK NASH
On the season series with Nashville...
"It's unacceptable not to beat them all year when they are in your division. It's just going to give us all the momentum to get psyched up for next year."
COLUMBUS HEAD COACH KEN HITCHCOCK
"We got beat. We weren't able to score when we had our people on the ice. That was the whole weekend. It was on the power play or late in the game - it was the whole weekend."
Given the loss, anything positive?
"Doesn't matter, it's about winning. At this time of year, we didn't get it done."
On the season series with Nashville...
"When a team beats you eight times in a row it's pretty telling. That doesn't leave much doubt, does it? Doesn't matter what song you sing, it doesn't leave much doubt when they beat you eight times in a row."