Monday, January 23, 2012

Nashville overcomes sluggish second period to beat Columbus

The Nashville Predators displayed their dominance over the Columbus Blue Jackets once again as they were able to defeat them by a 4-1 score in front of 14,310 at Bridgestone Arena. With the win, the Predators ended the season series against Columbus with a 5-0-1 record.

Mike Fisher got the scoring started for the Predators in the first period when he beat Steve Mason with a quick wrist-shot from the slot. Martin Erat made a great play to intercept the puck deep in the Columbus zone, and fed it to Fisher for the goal. The Predators ended the first period with a 1-0 lead, and out-shot the Blue Jackets by a 12-3 margin.

Columbus came out strong in the second period. The Blue Jackets fired seven shots on goal through the first five minutes of the period. Rick Nash was able to capitalize on the continuous Columbus pressure at 6:14 of the period when he got around Shea Weber and tucked it past Pekka Rinne for the equalizer.

"We didn't play a great second period, overall. For whatever reason, we came out flat, and they started to take the play to us a little bit," said Predators forward Jerred Smithson.

The Blue Jackets had two chances to take the lead on the power play, but Nashville's penalty kill came up big for them. After they were able to weather that storm, Fisher scored his second goal of the night. The goal was extra sweet for the fans, as was the first Goo Goo goal of the season.

"We did get some key kills and some big saves from (Rinne). We got through with a late goal there in the second, and kind of got the ball rolling again in the right direction," Smithson said.

Nashville played a good third period, and was able to add two more goals. Matt Halischuk scored his 11th goal of the season on a great display of hustle by his entire line, and Patric Hornqvist tipped in a power play goal to ice the game away for the Predators.

With only one more game remaining until the All-Star break, the Predators have a lot of momentum right now. They have won three games in a row, and have won 18 out of their last 25 games. After Tuesday night's game in Chicago, the Predators will have a week off before their next game.

"It's tough when you are rolling pretty good to slow things down, but I think all of the teams need this break. I don't know a team out there that isn't banged up and sore so I think for us to take a few days to recharge the batteries, rest up and heal some injuries will be huge down the stretch," Smithson said.

Nashville still has to play one more game before that time comes, however, and they know how important Tuesday's Central Division showdown with the Blackhawks is in the long run.

"It's huge. We got them a few days ago on a back-to-back. We know they are a better hockey club than they played, so we're expecting their best. We're going to have to come out and just get on our forecheck and establish that early, get our skating legs under us and put pucks to the net," Smithson said.

Hockey Night in Nashville's 3 Stars of the game:
1. Mike Fisher(NSH)
2. Matt Halischuk(NSH)
3. Pekka Rinne(NSH)

Official 3 Stars:
1. Mike Fisher(NSH)
2. Pekka Rinne(NSH)
3. Matt Halischuk(NSH)

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

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