Steve Sullivan, Vern Fiddler and Pekka Rinne
Coach Barry Trotz
The flaming hot Nashville Predators defeated the rival Columbus Blue Jackets 4-2 to extend their league high win streak to six games, their first since January 2007. The Preds remain the hottest team in the league going 13-5-1 since the all-star break.
The reborn Steve Sullivan had the game winner at 18:14 in the second period on a breakaway where he went to Columbus goalie Steve Mason’s right and flipped the puck past him into the net with a nifty backhand move. It was truly a team win with all four Predators lines contributing with each scoring a goal.
The Predators recent offensive outburst has been amazing considering they were ranked near the bottom in the league in goals scored as late as six weeks ago. The return of Steve Sullivan to near his pre-injury form has given the Preds an added dimension that was not there early in the season.
The Predators have now scored 27 goals in the last five games, the most in a five game streak in franchise history. Steve Sullivan discussed the offensive outburst, “This ranks up there in my career, we’ve gotten a lot of goals in a short span of time. This is exactly what we needed and hopefully we can keep the streak going by continuing to work hard. This is the time in the season when you want to get hot with 17 games left”.
Pekka Rinne continued his strong play and picked up his 22nd win against 10 losses stopping 31 of 33 Blue Jacket shots. The game featured the two leading contenders for the league’s Calder Cup (Best Rookie) in Rinne and Columbus’s Steve Mason who’s record fell to 25-16-3. The Predator’s recent surge has lifted Rinne’s chances significantly for the rookie award.
The game was well played in the first period but neither team scored. Columbus out shot the Predators 13-7. The imbalance was not indicative of the amount of actual shots being fired at the net as in addition to the seven shots the Predators had seven misses and seven blocked by Columbus compared to the Blue Jacket’s one blocked an no misses.
The second period was an offensive explosion. Vern Fiddler put the Preds ahead with a goal at 7:16. Jason Williams and Rick Nash followed with goals to put the Blue Jackets on top 2-1. The comeback Preds answered with a goal by Ryan Jones at 15:39 where he was able to push his own rebound into the net. Sullivan followed with his game winner to close out the period.
The Preds had the only goal of the third period when Marty Erat scored the 100th goal of his career, all coming with the Predators.
As would be expected when the 27th ranked power play unit (Predators) plays the 30th ranked team (Columbus) there were no odd man goals scored by either team. Columbus had an excellent opportunity 6:19 into the game when both Ryan Jones and Ryan Suter were whistled for infractions on the same play. The Nashville penalty kill unit has surrendered the most 5 on 3 goals in the league but held firm on Thursday night.
The game as not without controversy as both teams had potential goals reviewed and negated by the off ice officials in the first period. Later, there was another questionable call when a Columbus player dislodged the goal from the rear causing the crossbar to dip forward and stop a shot by Joel Ward that would have easily entered the net without the bar being positioned several inches lower than it should have been.
The game was a rough and tumble affair with the Predators delivering 31 hits to overshadow Columbus’s 17 hits.
As is usually the case when these rivals meet, the game included a fight, this time between Shea Weber and R J Umberger at the 18:11 mark in the final period. This was Weber’s third skirmish in three games prompting Barry Trotz to remark, “Three fights in three games, I’d rather him not fight as much, but at the same time he is showing a lot of leadership and a lot of emotion. No one is taking advantage of our guys right now”.
Three Predators left the game briefly due to injuries. Steve Sullivan received a bruise to the leg, Jordan Tootoo was slashed across the ankle, and Mary Erat received a puck to the face. All returned and were able to finish the game and are not expected to miss any time in the coming games.
The victory lifted the Predators past Columbus into sixth place with 70 points. Columbus drops to seventh, also with 70 points but with one less win which is the tie-breaker. Edmonton, Dallas and Anaheim are tied for eight with 68 points and Minnesota is behind that group with 67 in the tightly bunched Western Conference.
The Predators now travel to Philadelphia on Friday for a Saturday match up against Philadelphia at 6 p.m. (CST). This will be the first meeting with the Flyers since several former Preds including Scott Hartnell, Kimmo Timonen, and Ryan Parent moved to the Eastern Conference team.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass