The Nashville Predators lost their fourth game in a row to Columbus by a 3-2 score Tuesday night at Nationwide Arena. The Preds five-game win streak against the Jackets also came to an end.
Back to back goals thirty-nine seconds apart by Kristian Huselius and Fredrik Modin midway through the third period put the Blue Jackets ahead 3-0. Derick Brassard had the other goal for Columbus.
The Preds fought back with quick goals by Marty Erat and Patric Hornqvist to make it a contest but their efforts fell short.
Steve Mason played one of his better games of the season stopping 29 of 31 Predator shots including all 11 from the Predator power play. Pekka Rinne looked solid in net but failed to have much support in front of him as he stopped 14 of Columbus' 17 shots.
The game got off to a fast start with only four stoppages in the first 7:40 of play. Both teams were skating hard with plenty of up and down action. At 9:13, Columbus was called for too many men on the ice putting the Predators on the man advantage. The Blue Jackets never allowed the Preds to set up and did not allow a shot.
The Predators went on the power play again at 16:01 when Sammy Pahlsson was called for hooking Steve Sullivan. The Preds managed two shots on the man advantage but was unable to convert.
The first period ended with the Predators out shooting the Jackets 7-5 and leading in the Corsi numbers 14-7. The game was similar to the New Year's Eve game tat was fast moving and played close to the vest.
Columbus went on their first power play at 2:14 of the second period when Farncis Bouillon tripped R. J. Umberger. The Jackets were unable to get a shot on net but the Preds did get a short-handed scoring chance.
Chris Clark was called for hooking Cody Franson at 5:29. The Predators poured on the pressure and were credited with four shots on the man advantage but did not convert.
The Jackets returned to the man advantage at 9:24 when Shea Weber let his stick get away from him and it caught Voracek in the face. Columbus managed a post but no shots as they could not find the net.
Through the first sixteen minutes of the second period the Jackets only managed one shot. However, Columbus struck pay dirt on a three shot flurry when Derick Brassard's tip off a Milan Jurcina shot got past Rinne and slowly crossed the red line to give Columbus a 1-0 lead.
Dan Hamhuis was called for unnecessarily cross-checking Rick Nash at 17:47 behind the Predators net. The Predators appeared to be out of kilter but only allowed the Jackets one shot on their power play.
For the Period the Predators out shot Columbus 10-5. The Corsi numbers were much closer at 13-12 with the Preds having a slight advantage. The only number that mattered was the 1-0 Blue Jacket's lead.
The third period started with plenty of hard hitting and up and down the ice skating. Steve Sullivan missed an early opportunity, on a breakaway, when Steve Mason poke checked the puck as Sullivan tried to lift the puck into the net.
Jason Arnott was called for hooking Fredrik Modin at 6:56. A slow motion replay clearly showed that Modin was holding Arnott's stick. None the less, at 8:00 Kristian Huselius received a cross the blue ice pass from Rick Nash and put it past Pekka Rinne for a power play goal to put the Jackets ahead 2-0.
Thirty nine seconds later Fredrik Modin swatted at a loose puck in the Predator's blue ice that Jason Arnott was attempting to kick away. The puck crossed into the net and it was basically "game, set, match" at 8:39 when Columbus went up 3-0.
Marty Erat tried to make a game of it at 10:06 when he took a feed from Ryan Jones and placed it over Mason's left shoulder to the inside of the post to pull the Preds within two at 3-1.
At 13:36, Jan Hejda was called for interference on a delayed penalty to give the Predators a chance on the man advantage. As time expired on the penalty clock at 15:36, Patric Hornqvist picked up the rebound off of a Marty Erat shot and put it in the net to bring the Preds within a goal, 3-2.
The Predators put on a mad rush down the stretch but had difficulty even pulling Rinne from the net. The game came to an end with a couple of good scoring chances for the Preds but the game ended 3-2 giving the Predators a four game losing streak.
In the third period, The Preds out shot the Jackets 14-7 giving them a 31-17 advantage for the game.
Storylines From The Game
Predators Build The Confidence of the Opposition...
Once again, as we have seen so many times this season, the Predators played well early in the game but could not put the puck in the net. The Predators had numerous scoring chances early and had nothing to show for it.
Columbus gained confidence by playing even in the first period, and then, for the first time in eight games, the Jackets scored first in a contest. By the Preds not getting on the board early, struggling teams gain confidence and convert that into opportunities for wins and the Predators have been willing to go down that road far too often in the last few weeks.
A couple of early goals, against a struggling Steve Mason, could have had him hanging his head and willing to give up a few more goals. Instead, Mason, and the Blue Jackets, gained confidence and had one of their better games of the year.
Too Little Too Late...
The Predators waited until the mid-point of the final period to pick up the pace and put a couple of shots into the net. There is no way that you can wait until you are down by three goals late in the game to effectively mount a charge and win hockey games.
The Predators did not work for the area in front of the Columbus net and did not go after rebounds with the same intensity in the first fifty minutes of the game as they did when they were desperate at the end. A little more desperation to start the game is what is needed.
Playing Just Good Enough to Lose the Close Ones...
The Predators have played just good enough to lose close games in the last three outings on the road against conference rivals Phoenix, Colorado and Columbus. They did not play bad games in any of the three but managed to basically get beat by the competition.
Barry Trotz mentioned after Friday's game that this was an evening out process from the hockey gods where the Preds had won a few that hey did not deserve earlier in the season.
The Conference race is so tight at this point, that the Predators cannot afford to not be fully engaged for a full sixty minutes in every contest from here to the end of the season. In the Western Conference any brief period of a lack of intensity will be taken advantage of by the opposition immediately.
The Predators returned to Nashville after the game and will hit the ice at Centennial on Wednesday morning to prepare for Friday's game in Detroit. They begin a four game home stand on Saturday against Atlanta that will be the last games at the Sommet Center before the Olympic break.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass