The Nashville Predators found Christmas all over again on New Years Eve when they defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets 2-1 in overtime at the Nationwide Arena in what was described as a party atmosphere.
David Legwand scored the game winning goal 28 seconds into overtime. The Preds trailed 1-0 for most of the game until Andreas Thuresson scored his first NHL goal to tie the game midway through the third period. Joel Ward had the sole assist on both goals.
The lone Columbus goal was scored by Raffi Torrez early in the first period when Dan Ellis overplayed a shot and was well out of position when Torrez had an easy shot at an open net.
Both Dan Ellis and Mathieu Garon were outstanding in net. Ellis stopped 31 shots while Garon turned away 27.
The game got off to a quick start with a block of over four and a half minutes of sustained back and fourth action starting after an offside at :21. At 6:02 Columbus stuck first when Dan Ellis was out of position in front of the blue ice giving Raffi Torrez a shot at an open goal to give the Jackets an early 1-0 lead.
The period had minimal stoppages in play and passed very quickly. The Blue Jackets out shot the Predators 12-10 in the first period. Uncharacteristically, there were no penalties on either team.
The second period started with the same speedy play. After 13:53 of back and forth skating, Columbus was whistled for the first penalty of the game when newcomer Milan Jurcina was called for tripping. The Predators had two shots on the man advantage, both of which were good scoring chances but Garon came up big for the Jackets.
At 16:25, David Legwand was called for holding giving the seventh ranked Blue Jacket power play its first appearance of the evening. Columbus had two shots but did not convert.
The second period ended as it started with Columbus hanging on to a 1-0 lead. The Jackets out shot the Preds 11-9 for the second stanza. The Preds and Jackets each battled hard with Columbus out hitting Nashville 16-13 through two periods. The Predators did a better job of controlling the play during the last half of the period.
The third period opened with the same intense tempo of play. At 2:30 Arnott caught a post and then Hamhuis and Thuresson both had excellent scoring chances but Garon continued to stand on his head in the Columbus net.
Jered Boll was called for elbowing at 6:30 when he tried to nail Francis Bouillon in the corner. It could have been an injury causing play but Bouillon was able to avert the worst of the blow but did get an elbow in the process. The Preds only managed one shot on the man advantage.
After being patient and not forcing the play the Preds finally got a break. At 12:39 in the third, David Legwand brought the puck down the ice and Joel Ward picked up the puck behind the Jacket net and passed it to a wide open Andreas Thuresson who put it past Garon to tie the game 1-1.
A minute later Rick Nash celebrated prematurely on a shot that went through Dan Ellis' five-hole and ricocheted off the post. A video review confirmed that it was not a goal.
With 4:08 remaining, the Preds almost scored again on a broken stick shot by Ryan Suter that floated to the net. Garon had trouble handling it and Arnott came close to putting the rebound into the net.
Both goalies had major scares in the last two minutes of play. Andreas Thuresson almost scored his second goal of the game when he caught a post and the puck slowly floated across the blue ice before being swept clear.
Regulation play ended with the score tied 1-1. Both teams had nine shots in the third period.
Twenty eight seconds into the overtime, there was intense battling for the puck behind the Columbus net when Joel Ward freed the puck and fed it to a waiting David Legwand in front of the net who buried it the game winner.
Storylines From the Game
Predators Patience Paid off...
Both teams played well enough to win and you could tell early that it was going to be a real back breaker for the team that lost. Both teams battled hard and neither were able to take advantage of the other team's miscues.
The Predators showed exceptional patience as they played Barry Trotz hockey and did not deviate from their game plan. They battled for pucks, went to the hard areas, and sacrificed their bodies for the good of the team. Trotz always says that if you do those things long enough you will be rewarded and that's exactly what happened for the Predators.
The Kids Are All Right...
Andreas Thuresson scored his first NHL goal and played 23 shifts for 14:03 of playing time, his career high. He took advantage of the injury to Marty Erat and took his game to a new level and almost got a second goal with less that two minutes in the game.
Alexander Sulzer filled in well for Kevin Klein playing 17 shifts for 13:35 of ice time. Mike Santorelli only played nine shifts on the fourth line but did fire three pucks toward the net.
Dan Ellis Played Like a Champion...
Other than the play that led to the Columbus goal, Dan Ellis played a near perfect game in net. Ellis looked a bit uncomfortable early but settled down and received the first star of the game honors.
Both goalies played well but Ellis received more help on defense in front of the net which contributed to his stellar play. When the Preds did make mistakes Ellis came up big to save several Columbus scoring chances.
The Preds returned home after the game and should be back in Nashville before the midnight hour. The Preds open a four game home stand against Anaheim on Saturday when they will play the Ducks on consecutive Saturdays with Calgary and Carolina squeezed in between.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass