Chris Mason stopped all three Columbus shooters he faced and Alexander Radulov scored the only shootout goal as the Nashville Predators held off the Blue Jackets for a 4-3 shootout win Sunday at Nationwide Arena. Columbus rallied from a 3-1 deficit with two third-period goals and a 5-0 shot margin in overtime, but neither David Vyborny, Nikolai Zherdev nor Rick Nash could best Mason in the game-deciding, one-on-one session.
With the win, Nashville improves to 42-18-4 and takes sole possession of the top spot in the Western Conference standings. The Predators are now 3-0-1 over their last four games.
Radulov shot first for Nashville. He skated in with speed, faked a forehand shot, and deked to his backhand before returning to his forehand and ripping a shot to goaltender Ty Conklin's stick side. He executed all of this inside the hashmarks and his stiff shot popped the water bottle off of Columbus' goal in a flourish. Paul Kariya, Nashville's second shooter, was stopped by the cuff of Conklin's glove hand but Mason's performance at the other end made Radulov's lone tally stand.
Earlier, Nashville made it 3-1 when J.P. Dumont and Vern Fiddler scored 1:52 apart in the second period to break a 1-1 tie. Columbus' Jody Shelley and Ron Hainsey then lit the lamp at 4:30 and 10:56 of the third period, respectively, to pull the Blue Jackets even and force the eventual overtime session.
Kariya scored Nashville's first goal, a power-play marker 6:54 into the opening period. It came during the second of two minor penalties to Shelley, who was sent off at 3:08 for boarding against Greg Zanon and for taking a swing at Nashville's Darcy Hordichuk. Kariya, who had just served his own two-minute penalty for slashing, started the play after surveying the offensive zone from behind Columbus' net. He shipped the puck to Peter Forsberg on the left side and Forsberg sent the puck to the point for a one-timer blast by Kimmo Timonen. Conklin made the save but couldn't contain the rebound. Nashville's Martin Erat jammed at the loose puck in the midst of three Blue Jackets and ultimately forced it free to Kariya standing at the right edge of the crease. Kariya, already Nashville's leading scorer, whipped the puck into the net for his 20th goal of the season.
The Predators carried that 1-0 lead into the first intermission, but a penalty to Jerred Smithson late in the first carried over into the second. Fredrik Modin capitalized on the advantage to tie the game at 1:04. Modin was stopped by Mason from the same position seconds earlier but Mason lost his stick on that play. When Columbus moved the puck around the perimeter of the Nashville penalty killers and reset the same play to Modin, Mason had been given Timonen's stick but could not fight off Modin's redirection into the goal.
Just over a minute later, Radulov chased down a dump into the right corner and won a battle with Aaron Johnson. Radulov brought the puck out of the corner and centered to Dumont, who was storming down the slot with a step on two defenders. Dumont banged home the pass to make it 2-1 at 2:19.
Johnson was again victimized less than two minutes later, when Fiddler tipped his attempted clearing pass and allowed Davd Legwand to reach the puck before it cleared the zone. Fiddler drove toward the net and Legwand shot, generating a rebound from Conklin that Fiddler wasted little time deposting for a 3-1 lead at 4:11. The two-goal margin stood through the remainder of the second.
Columbus cut the lead to one 4:30 into the third following a tremendous solo effort by Zherdev. Zherdev made moves on Radulov and defenseman Ryan Suter as he carried the puck up-ice on a rush. He capped the drive with a shot that was stopped by Mason but not held. Shelley swooped in for the loose puck, swatting at the puck a couple of times until he chipped it over Mason to make it 3-2.
Six minutes later, in the midst of a period in which the Predators were outshot 16-7 after out-peppering the Blue Jackets 18-13 through 40 minutes, Hainsey pinched and fired a shot through Mason's legs to make it 3-3 at 10:56.
NOTES: Nashville has gone to a shootout in two of its past three games and is now 5-2 in shootouts this season... Alexander Radulov is 2-for-2 in shootout attempts this season. Paul Kariya is 4-for-7. Goaltender Chris Mason has stopped 14 of 17 shooters he's faced... David Legwand assisted on Vernon Fiddler's goal to extend his point streak to four games. Legwand has 5 points (2g-3a) in that span... Paul Kariya scored his 20th goal of the season to become Nashville's fifth 20-goal scorer. He has three goals and one assist in his past two games... Defenseman Kimmo Timonen had an assist and now has four assists in his last three games. Timonen left midway through the third period and did not return... Vitaly Vishnevski, Scott Hartnell and Steve Sullivan were scratched for Nashville.