Predators stay hot, top Blue Jackets

No matter how many times the Nashville Predators beat Columbus,
they refuse to take any game against the Blue Jackets for
granted.

Mike Fisher scored two goals, and the Predators beat Columbus
4-1 on Monday night for their third straight victory and 11th in 13
games. They also avoided any letdown against a team that is only
5-24-6 in Nashville sandwiched between games against Chicago before
the All Star break.

”It was really big,” Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne said. ”We
go way back with the Blue Jackets. We have a little bit of a
rivalry. We always know they’re going to come hard against us no
matter what the situation is, no matter what position they are in
the standings. It’s always a good matchup. It’s just a lot of fun
to play against those guys.”

The Predators wrapped up their season series with Columbus by
going 5-0-1, and Fisher is a big reason for the success against
their Central Division-rival. Fisher has scored six of his 11 goals
this season against the Blue Jackets.

”It’s kind of a funny stat,” Fisher said. ”I know I’ve got to
make sure I keep going and see if I can score against some other
teams.”

Matt Halischuk and Patric Hornqvist both scored, and Ryan Suter
had two assists as Nashville won for the 12th time in 14 home
games. Rinne stopped 25 shots for a franchise-record and
career-high eighth straight victory. Two of the last three have
come against the Blue Jackets.

”He’s always there making key saves, and he’s a rock back there
for us,” Fisher said. ”It’s no different tonight. He’s
huge.”

Rick Nash scored for Columbus to avoid the shutout as the Blue
Jackets lost their third straight. Finishing the season series with
another loss doesn’t make it any easier.

”We’ve got to be better here,” Nash said. ”It’s a tough place
to play. We’ve struggled over many years. If you want to be a good
team, you got to win in every building it doesn’t matter where it
is.”

The Predators had every reason for a letdown, even with Suter
back after he missed three games because of an undisclosed upper
body injury.

They were coming off a 5-2 win over Chicago two nights earlier
before a raucous sellout crowd, and will visit the Blackhawks on
Tuesday night. The Predators came out shooting, and Martin Erat
stole the puck in the slot and fed it to Fisher, who beat goalie
Steve Mason with a wrister from in front at 8:07.

It could have been worse for the Blue Jackets as the Predators
outshot Columbus 12-3 in the first period and had two power plays.
But Mason stopped David Legwand’s shot from the right circle, with
Brett Lebda pushing the net off its moorings at 16:52 for a delay
of game penalty. Nashville couldn’t take advantage of the power
play.

”It wasn’t a fun period to watch,” Columbus interim coach Todd
Richards said. ”I think everyone felt that way. They came out and
got their game going and we were watching for most of the
period.”

Columbus kept Rinne very busy in the second. Nash got the puck
and skated up the right side before moving in front, where he beat
Rinne’s outstretched stick with a backhander at 6:14 to tie it 1-1.
The Blue Jackets got their lone power play late in the period when
Nashville was called for too many men on the ice.

They couldn’t convert before being penalized for the same
infraction with 20 seconds left on the advantage.

Fisher put Nashville ahead to stay with a power-play goal at
19:31 of the second, off the rebound of a one-timer by captain Shea
Weber.

”It was a huge goal at the end of the second that really
shifted the momentum,” Richards said.

Then Halischuk, a healthy scratch in the previous game, made it
3-1 at 7:37 of the third with a wrist shot from in front. Hornqvist
added his 14th on the power-play at 16:51 off an assist from
Suter.

”He makes it look so easy,” Trotz said of Suter.


NOTES: The Predators are 31-5-3 against Columbus
since the 2006-07 season. … Nashville has killed 17 straight
penalties. … With Fisher’s goal, the Predators are one of three
teams with eight players with at least 10. Fisher has four goals
and seven assists in his last nine games. The Predators are 14-2-1
when Fisher has a point. … Erat has three goals and eight assists
in his eight games. … Nashville has scored a power-play goal in
three straight games, and has nine man-advantage goals in nine
games. … The Blue Jackets are 3-20-2 when allowing the first goal
and 1-17-1 when trailing after two periods.