COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The Columbus Blue Jackets won this one with their offense instead of relying on their dominating defense.
Sergei Bobrovksy shook off a slap shot to his mask and withstood two late goals, and Mark Letestu had a goal and an assist as the Blue Jackets beat the struggling Nashville Predators 4-3 on Tuesday night to extend their franchise-record point streak to 11 games.
“I think you could sense it on the bench,” Columbus coach Todd Richards said. “We had a couple good shifts in the offensive zone right before Mark Letestu scored. I sensed a little bit of confidence in the group, just offensively, the way we were going.”
Fedor Tyutin, Nikita Nikitin and Derick Brassard also had goals for Columbus, the lowest scoring team in the NHL.
Vinny Prospal, who had three assists, said his team’s surprising surge is about attitude.
“Confidence and an ability to win close games,” said the veteran winger, who has 501 career assists. “That’s what the league is all about right now. The good teams, even though they don’t play their best, they find a way to win. We have been able to win the close games.”
Bobrovsky, who made 32 saves, came in on a 6-0-2 spurt with two shutouts in the previous eight games. Jack Johnson had two assists for the Blue Jackets, whose previous four games were decided by shootouts.
Gabriel Bourque, Chris Mueller and Mike Fisher scored for the Predators, who are on a season-worst, four-game skid.
“We’re putting ourselves in real bad positions and we’re not making it easy,” said Shea Weber, who added two assists. “It’s just tough.”
Nashville fell to 3-9-1 in its last 13 games. To make matters worse, the team’s stout defensive style has sprung a leak. The Predators have allowed 20 goals in its last four games.
Pekka Rinne, who had been pulled in two of his previous three starts, finished with 27 saves and wasn’t able to make the big stop.
Columbus appeared to break the game open late in the third period with two quick goals to make it 4-1, but Nashville rallied with two of their own 47 seconds apart in the final two minutes.
It was of no consolation to frustrated Nashville coach Barry Trotz.
“We’ve got to play good defensively,” he said. “We’ve got to sort that out and go from there. Some guys, I’m not happy with their game. They’ve got to give us more. That’s the part that bothers me.”
Mueller scored his first career goal on a jam shot with 2:01 remaining, and Fisher made it 4-3 with a spinning backhander under the stretched leg of Bobrovsky for his seventh.
The Blue Jackets’ near meltdown will certainly make for good film study session.
“We relaxed,” Richards said. “It was disappointing too because our goaltender has been so good.”
The Blue Jackets increased their lead when Nikitin’s floating shot from the point through a congested slot found the net for his third, on the power play, to make it 3-1 with 10 minutes remaining.
Just under three minutes later, Brassard, trailing the play, took a nice feed from Letestu and beat Renne with a low shot for his fifth.
Bobrovsky was stunned in the second period when he took Kevin Klein’s slap shot in the mask and didn’t hop back up. Bobrovksy was tended to by a trainer for several minutes near the net as he wiped his face and used smelling salts before he was ready to play again.
Later, Tyutin sent a wrist shot from the deep point through traffic at 4:08 of the second period to give Columbus a 1-0 lead.
“Pretty good feeling especially when the team gets two points,” Tyutin said of earning his 200th career point.
Letestu followed with his seventh 5:31 later after a long Columbus possession in the Predators zone. A nice keep at the right point by rookie defenseman Dalton Prout to Prospal kept the attack alive. Prospal whipped a long pass to the left circle to Letestu, who wristed a shot over Rinne’s blocker.
The Predators made some noise late in the period. Bourque’s slap shot deflected off a skate and skidded past Bobrovsky for his 10th to make it 2-1 at 14:45.
“We expect to be in the playoff picture,” Letestu said. “We expect to be in the mix come the end.” NOTES: Nashville recalled LW Taylor Beck from Milwaukee of the AHL and placed F Paul Gaustad on the injured list on Tuesday. The Predators were also without injured C Colin Wilson, RW Patrick Hornqvist and D Hall Gill. … Prout’s assist was the first point of his career. … Predators coach Barry Trotz benched LW Sergei Kostitsyn for making a bad line change Sunday, leading to a goal in a 3-2 loss at Edmonton. … The Blue Jackets have won 12 of 16 against Nashville. … The Predators went 1-4 on a five-game trip.