File photo; photo by John Russell
Jerred Smithson scored twice for the first two-goal game of his NHL career Saturday night in Columbus.
Forward Jerred Smithson scored twice and goaltender Chris Mason stopped 39 of 40 shots he faced to lead the Nashville Predators to a 4-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets Saturday night in Nationwide Arena. Scott Nichol, playing in his first game since serving nine games of a suspension, registered two assists. Paul Kariya and Shea Weber also scored for Nashville.
The victory is Nashville's fifth win in a row and moves the Predators' season record to 31-11-3. Nashville has defeated Columbus in each of the five meetings between the teams this season. As in Friday night's 2-0 Predators win in Nashville, the Predators caught Columbus while it was was without three of its top players--Rick Nash, Sergei Fedorov and Adam Foote.
The Predators got off to a quick start and the line of Smithson, Nichol and Josef Vasicek dominated in the first period. Smithson scored twice within a 2:50 span to put Nashville ahead 2-0. Both goals came as a result of turnovers by Columbus forward Nikolai Zherdev. Smithson scored at 5:06 after he got the rebound of a Vasicek shot from the right circle. Nichol got the puck to Vasicek by intercepting and redirecting Zherdev's attempted chip around the end boards. Smithson tallied again at 7:56, capping off a rush that was initiated when an ill-advised drop pass by Zherdev was taken by Nichol and sent ahead to Smithson. Blue Jackets defenseman Derrick Walser was closing in on Smithson as he crossed the Columbus blue line and veered toward the right side of the slot, but Smithson got off a shot from the edge of the right circle that eluded Columbus goalie Fredrik Norrena.
Kariya extended the lead to 3-0 when he took a cross-ice seam pass from David Legwand and ripped a wrist shot from the right face-off dot past Norrena at 18:06. The Predators outshot the Blue Jackets 9-6 in the opening 20 minutes, not allowing a shot on Mason until 15:37 of the period.
Columbus pulled Norrena in favor of Ty Conklin to start the second and the Blue Jackets came out with much more energy. Anson Carter hit the post with about 1:10 gone and Nashville got into penalty trouble with successive trips to the box by Jason Arnott (slash), Legwand (trip) and Ryan Suter (delay of game for firing the puck over the glass from the defensive zone). Mason and the Predators penalty killers were superb but Columbus ultimately cashed in 1:04 into Suter's minor. Dan Fritsche won an offensive zone draw and Zherdev slid the puck back to blueliner Ron Hainsey at the right point. Hainsey's quick wrister went through Carter's screen in front and beat Mason. The power-play tally made it 3-1 at 10:28.
Nashville re-established the three-goal lead less than six minutes later when Weber pinched to fire a loose puck on net. Steve Sullivan was unable to get a stick on J.P. Dumont's attempted centering pass and the puck trickled through the slot out toward the top of the left circle. Weber stepped in for a shot that caromed in off Conklin at 16:07. It came on Nashville's fourth and final shot of the period as the Blue Jackets outshot the Predators 12-4 in the second.
Mason started off the third with a superb stop on a point-blank chance by Zherdev. A third-period tussle between Fritsche and Nashville's Scott Hartnell at 13:16 resulted in a four-minute power-play for Columbus that contributed to an even more inflated shot advantage for the Blue Jackets in the third--22 to 4. But again the Predators penalty killers and Mason were strong, finishing the night 7-for-8 against the Columbus power play units.
Next Nashville returns home to face the Calgary Flames in a 5:00 p.m. CT Monday afternoon start. For tickets, order online, call 615-770-PUCK or visit any Ticketmaster outlet.
NOTES: Jerred Smithson, who entered Saturday's game with three goals this season, scored twice for the first two-goal game of his career... Paul Kariya scored his 15th goal of the season in the game and has eight goals in his last 11 games. Nashville is 14-0-0 when Kariya scores... Nashville is now 10-1-1 in the second half of back-to-back games... J.P. Dumont extended his point streaks to six games by assisting on Shea Weber's goal. Dumont has eight points (1g-7a) in that span... Shea Weber now has goals in each of the past two games and three points (2g-1a) in that span. Nashville is 7-0-1 when Weber scores... Goaltender Chris Mason won his third straight game and is now 18-7-2... The Predators' three-goal first period was their 17th multi-goal first period this season and Nashville has outscored opponents 55-33 in the first... Nashville's penalty killers finished the night 7-for-8 against Columbus' power-play and are now 28-for-31 over the last seven games... The Predators are now 16-8-0 on road. Last season the team was 17-17-7 on the road. The franchise record for road wins is 18... The Preds are 13-3-0 in last 16 and 13-3-1 vs. Central Division... Nashville is also 20-9-2 when outshot by its opponent, 22-4-1 when scoring first and 21-1-3 when leading after two periods... Alexander Radulov and Darcy Hordichuk were scratched for Nashville.