Preds improve playoff position with SO win
Jason Arnott wasn't sure he wanted to make his comeback from a concussion this weekend. His wife was even more uncertain.
But after watching the Nashville Predators fall in Chicago on Friday night, Arnott knew he had to be back on the ice Saturday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
"I was looking at the faces of the guys on the team and they looked pretty tired," Arnott said. "They have been through a lot."
So Arnott decided that he would play if he felt good after the morning skate.
"I was pretty determined to play," Arnott said. "I talked it over with my wife and she kind of hinted against it. But I wanted to get back and help the team as much as I can."
Arnott scored two goals, one on the power play, and added an assist in the Predators' 5-4 shootout win over Columbus. Despite his lengthy absence, Arnott leads the Predators in goals with 29.
Ville Koistinen scored the only goal in the shootout to give the Predators the win.
Nashville is tied with Anaheim and St. Louis with 86 points in the Western Conference playoff chase. The Blue Jackets are sixth, three points ahead of Nashville, Anaheim and St. Louis.
Arnott, the team captain, found himself in familiar territory playing on a line between J.P. Dumont and Steve Sullivan. Arnott may have hesitated about returning to the ice, but once the game started he was back battling for position in front of the net.
"It's a part of my game," Arnott said. "I figured if I am going to play I am going to do the things that I do well. At the beginning of the game I kind of took it easy. As things progressed I began going to the net more."
Arnott was glad he made the decision, but admitted he was troubled about it until the opening faceoff.
"I was very uncomfortable," Arnott said. "To come back after a concussion is tough. You definitely don't want to put yourself in a situation where you are going to be out for the rest of the year, most of the summer and maybe even next year.
"But we have lost so many guys. I made the decision to come back and try to give us a boost."
Predators coach Barry Trotz, who has been piecing lines together due to the injury issues that also include second-line center David Legwand and second-line forward Martin Erat, enthusiastically welcomed Arnott back.
"The guys are digging in and there have been no complaints," Trotz said. "It was huge to have Arnott back. He gave us a big body in the middle. You saw how many chances they created."
Shea Weber and Radek Bonk also scored for Nashville. Rick Nash scored twice, and Jiri Novotny and Jason Williams added goals for Columbus.
Columbus opened the scoring at 6:04 of the first period when Nash put a rebound past goalie Pekka Rinne from close range.
Weber tied it little over 3 minutes later when he blasted a shot from just inside the blue line, but Novotny put Columbus back on top 31 seconds later.
Nash scored his second goal of the game at 5:46 of the second period, beating Rinne off a rebound on a power play.
Arnott pulled the Predators within one at 11:14 of the second period. He caught the puck off a high rebound, threw it to the ice and backhanded it off of a Columbus player into the net past Steve Mason.
With 3:44 left in the second period, Arnott tied it at 3, scoring on a power play. Dan Hamhuis took a shot from long distance from the right point that was deflected by Bonk. Arnott skated in low in the slot and shot the loose puck into the left side of the net to beat Mason, who was out of position to the right.
Bonk put the Predators in front 4-3 with 9:48 left in regulation. He was stationed in front of the crease and directed a pass from Jerred Smithson into the net.
Williams tied it with 4:17 left in the third period, catching Rinne out of position with a shot from low to the left side of the net.
Neither team could find the net in overtime, setting up the shootout. The Predators evened their season record at 5-5 in shootouts. Columbus is 5-7.
Rinne made the decision for Columbus to go first.
"I always tell Coach Trotz that I want to start out defending in the shootout," Rinne said. "I try and trust myself to get a save so our guy can go to the other end and score."
Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock was disappointed in the play of his team, despite coming away with a point.
"The point's big but we did not play well in the second and third periods so we will have to address that," Hitchcock said. "We can play better."
Columbus was without Rostislav Klesla. He's expected to miss at least one more game because of an oblique injury. ... The Predators have an 11-game unbeaten string at home against Columbus. ... Nashville assigned Michael Santorelli to Milwaukee of the American Hockey League after the game.