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Preds win seesaw battle in Columbus

by Staff Writer / Nashville Predators

Paul Kariya
Photo by John Russell
Paul Kariya registered two assists on Wednesday, both in the third period.

David Legwand posted two goals and an assist and Scott Nichol scored the game-winner with 7:57 remaining in regulation to lift the Nashville Predators to a 5-4 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets Wednesday night at Nationwide Arena.

The Predators twice overcame one-goal deficits in the game, eventually scoring two unanswered tallies within a 31-second span in the third period to rally for the win. Goaltender Tomas Vokoun stopped 29 of 33 shots in the victory, which gives Nashville its second in a row and moves the team to 11-4-1 on the season.

"In general we did some really good things during the game," Predators assistant coach Peter Horachek said. "There were some times when we had some breakdowns and [Columbus] capitalized on some situations. But the important thing, I think, is that as the game went on, we responded when we got behind late in the game. I think that's a real good sign."

The decision by Nashville's coaching staff to mix up two lines in the third period paid off, resulting in the final three Nashville goals. Legwand switched places with Jason Arnott, moving between Paul Kariya and Martin Erat while Arnott was partnered with Scott Hartnell and Scott Nichol. Kariya went on to assist on both Legwand goals and Arnott set up Nichol's tally.

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"It was kind of like we needed to go a little bit more and skate a little bit more," Horachek said. "[Legwand] is a great skater so we changed some things up just to give [Columbus] a different look. They were trying to match [lines] a little bit so also that means that coming out in the third period [the Columbus coaching staff has] to think about what they're trying to match. So it kind of throws them off a little bit."

For the Blue Jackets, interim head coach Gary Agnew was making his debut at the helm after replacing fired coach Gerard Gallant earlier this week. The shake-up sparked the home squad, who put four goals on the board after totaling six in its past four games. "They are a team that is very emotional with the changing of their coach," Horachek said. "We were able to do what we had to do to find a way to win."

The Predators got on the board first. As Nashville skated on its initial power-play of the game, forward J.P. Dumont tipped a Kimmo Timonen point shot past Blue Jackets goalie Pascal Leclaire to make it 1-0 at 5:21.

Columbus forward Jason Chimera tied the game at 16:06 when he took a pass from Manny Malhotra and beat goaltender Tomas Vokoun with a shot from the right face-off circle. The Blue Jackets then took a 2-1 lead at the 1:26 mark of the second. Thirty seconds after having a goal waved off for coming after the referee's whistle, Rick Nash poked home the rebound of a Rostislav Klesla point shot to score the first of his two goals in the game.

With Columbus skating on its third power-play of the game, Nashville rebuffed an attempt by Columbus to enter the offensive zone and sprung forward Steve Sullivan for a rush heading the other direction. Sullivan was joined by Fiddler on a 2-on-1 break and sent the puck to Fiddler on the left side. Fiddler took the pass on his forehand but pulled it to his backhand as he cut to the middle of the ice and roofed it to the upper right corner past goalie Pascal Leclaire. The short-handed tally at 10:46 of the second period pulled Nashville even with Columbus 2-2.

The Predators benefited from a few lucky bounces in the final half of the game. Dan Fritsche hit the post on a 2-on-1 chance with 13:00 gone in the second. Sergei Fedorov hit the post 1:00 into the third period, then Vokoun managed to unknowingly kick out an Anson Carter shot that slid parallel to the goal line under the Nashville goaltender 10 seconds later.

Despite the Columbus pressure, Nashville got the next goal and took a 3-2 lead 3:49 into the final period. The goal was Legwand's first of the night and was a simple redirection of a beautiful 2-on-1 feed from Kariya.

Less than four minutes later, Nash scored again to tie the game. This time he carried the puck in from the neutral zone, curling in on the right side before uncorking a shot from the face-off circle that beat Vokoun to the short-side at 7:22. Just 1:50 after that, Nash walked out of the right corner and set up Fredrik Modin for a doorstep tap-in to give Columbus a 4-3 lead.

The first of Nashville's final two goals came at 11:32, as Legwand deposited the rebound of Kariya's shot from the left half-wall. Then, 31 seconds later, Nichol posted the game-winner. Hartnell's forechecking forced a turnover that sent the puck to Arnott in the right circle. Arnott then found Nichol to the left of the goal, and the 5'9" forward outmuscled Klesla to direct the pass into the net, which was left wide open when Leclaire overcommitted to his left.

When Vokoun misplayed the puck and was caught behind his own net two minutes later, Fiddler made a potentially game-saving play to break up a centering feed from Fedorov to Nikolai Zherdev. Then a tripping penalty to Nichol at 18:33 made for a tense final minute-and-a-half, but the Predators penalty killers completed their game-long shutout of the Columbus power play to close out the game.

"We were down by a goal late in the third period and we came back and scored two goals," Horachek said. "We won a game that we weren't totally sharp in all areas. We did do a lot of really good things. Our penalty killing was excellent. I think we won the special teams battle. We were 1-for-5 on the power play. We scored a shorthanded goal and we killed off their power play late in the game. I think that was real key. Our penalty killers did a great job."

Nashville returns home Thursday night to host the Minnesota Wild. Game time is 7:00 p.m. Tickets are still available and can be ordered online, by calling 615-770-PUCK or by visiting any Ticketmaster outlet or the Gaylord Entertainment Center box office.

 

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