On a night when the Jackets were far and away the better team, they faced one of the best goaltenders in the league who brought his "A" game. The Jackets pressed hard, and showed a ton of effort, but were unable to come away with the victory.
Read on after the jump for the tale of the tape:
In a bit of a surprise move, goaltender Steve Mason was given the start between the pipes for the Jackets. The team as a whole has been playing better of late, led by Curtis Sanford. The Sandman can't play every game though right?
The Jackets came out with a ton of energy. The compete level was high, and the Jackets dictated the tempo for most of the first five minutes. From the opening whistle Derick Brassard was flying out there, wanting the puck every shift. It was great to see from Brass, who has been playing excellent hockey of late.
The Predators were unable to get anything going offensively early in the period, throwing a handful of perimeter shots on Mason, who was sharp. The handful of chances the Predators created in-close were also smothered by Mason-who was taking no chances with rebounds, eating every puck.
After the mid-period TV timeout, the Jackets top line pounced on the Nashville defense, forcing a turnover which led to a shot on net by Nikita Nikitin. The shot was blocked, and Nash wired the rebound towards the cage but Pekka Rinne came up with a huge save to keep the game tied at zeroes.
There has been a lot of discussion regarding the Preds and their big three free agents- Rinne, Ryan Suter and Shea Weber. Rinne has already been signed of course, but I think it's crucial that they find a way to keep both of the stud blueliners in the fold. I'm not sure how they'll be able to, especially given the team's need for more offensive punch, but those two defensemen are special players, and the Preds are very close to being a team that goes deep in the playoffs.
The Jackets' second line, which again sees Antoine Vermette between Ryan Johansen and Tomas Kubalik, continues to improve since they were put together as a line. Johansen looked especially zoned-in in the first period, creating a handful of chances himself. After a mid-season dip in production, Johansen seems primed for a second-half breakout. Depending on how things go at the trade deadline, Johansen and Vermette seem like a great pairing that the team can continue to rely on.
The remaining few minutes of the period saw the puck remain mostly in the Nashville zone. Rinne was his usual self, making save after save.
With about thirty seconds left in the opening frame, Rick Nash went to the box for high-sticking. The Predators were unable to beat Mason before the horn blew ending the period.
End of the first period, 0-0.
The Predators opened the second with three-quarters of a powerplay remaining, but couldn't beat Mason. The team was playing quote well defensively in front of him, a change from the usual this season, which sees the team play almost defeated with the young goaltender in net.
Rick Nash looked very focused early in the period. He was creating plays, and came close to beating Rinne on a chance that saw a return pass from Vinny Prospal just missing his stick,
Mason was forced to make a big save about three minutes in, when off a turnover in the defensive zone two Nashville forwards collapsed to the slot, with the puck being fired on net from in-close.
With about five minutes played, the Predators started to turn the momentum in their favor. Mason was peppered with shots, mainly due to turnovers and defensive breakdowns in front of him. At that point the Jackets still hadn't registered a shot on net.
At the 7:34 mark, the Jackets went to the powerplay. The special teams had been better of late, but this powerplay was abysmal. The Jackets were unable to even get a shot on net.
A few minutes later, at 11:08, the Predators got on the board. After a faceoff, the puck slid back to Fedor Tyutin. Tyutin slid the puck over to partner Nikitin, who had already started to skate up-ice. The puck was intercepted, and a two-on-one developed, with Sergei Kostitsyn firing the puck over to Martin Erat, who one-time wristed the puck past Mason. Nothing the goaltender could do there.
1-0 Predators: Martin Erat (Sergei Kostitsyn)
The Jackets immediatly went on the attack off the ensuing faceoff, but a terrible call from the refs put the Jackets down a man. Derek Dorsett had the puck in the corner to Rinne's right, and drove to the net with the puck. En-route, he was checked from behind into Rinne by Kevin Klein, yet Dorsett was given a goaltender interference penalty. Terrible call.
On the powerplay that followed, the Predators struck again. After some excellent puck movement by the Preds that saw the penalty killers shredded to pieces, Mike Fisher tapped in a beauty pass from Erat.
2-0 Predators: Mike Fisher (Martin Erat, Roman Josi)
I'm sure the referee who made the call on Dorsett will be treated to a nice steak dinner by Fisher, in return for the free powerplay. Again, there was nothing that Mason could do on the goal.
The Jackets didn't roll over and die, as they have in the past when down two goals. The Jackets got two eventful shifts back-to-back after the goal, the first was a high-energy shift by the fourth line that kept the puck in the Nashville zone, and the second was a shift by the second line that saw the three forwards crash the net, with Rinne taking exception.
The period ended with the Jackets keeping the Preds hemmed-in, but they couldn't solve Rinne.
End of the second period, 2-0 Nashville.
The Jackets came out flying. John Moore showcased his skating ability right off the opening faceoff, splitting the defense and firing a wrister on net, which Rinne was able to smother. Seconds later, Rinne made a fantastic save off of a Nash shot from the side of the net.
With Rick Nash skating hard to the net with the puck, Francis Bouillion was forced to hook the Jackets' captain, sending the Jackets to the powerplay. The Jackets weren't able to score, but it wasn't due to lack of chances. Rinne was outstanding, stopping Nash in-close, and made a handful of other, easier saves to keep the score at 2-0.
Shortly after the conclusion of the powerplay, Nash made a great play the blueline to keep the puck on-side, and the biscuit made it's way to a streaking Fedor Tyutin. Tyutin fired a shot on Rinne, but the goaltender came up with another great save, this one of the glove-hand variety.
Coach Todd Richards shook up his lines a bit, swapping Colton Gillies and Ryan Russell, and trading Brassard for Vermette. Vermette and Nash have always had chemistry, but the second line with Brass and the rookies wasn't able to get much going.
Half way through the period, Brassard had a fantastic chance when Rinne kicked a rebound to the front of the net. Rinne was out of position, and when Brass turned and shot the puck toward the open net, Rinne slid back over making an incredible save. Seriously, Rinne is ridiculous.
The Jackets were by far the better team in the third period, continuously peppering Rinne. The puck rarely left the Nashville zone, but the big Finn stood tall. Rick Nash was playing like a man on fire to that point, he was all over the ice making things happen, whether it was shooting the puck himself or setting up teammates.
With just over four minutes left, with the Jackets continuing to dominate play, Nash shredded the Nashville defense, but fired a shot just wide. You could feel that the Jackets were close to a goal, but the hockey gods were not dealing in the Jackets' favor on this night.
With 1:17 left in the game, with Mason the bench, the Jackets went to the powerplay when Kostitsyn went to the box for slashing. The Jackets couldn't get set up, and off a faceoff scrum Weber collected the puck, dumping it down the ice and into the Jackets' net.
3-0 Predators: Shea Weber (Jerred Smithson)
Final Score: 3-0 Predators
- John Moore had another strong game. He was finally showing some glimpses of offense, and was involved in the physical side of things as well. In one particular instance, Mike Fisher threw Moore to the ice, and Moore followed that up by dumping Fisher seconds later.
- Pekka Rinne was outstanding. Easily one of the best in the league.
- Derick Brassard had another strong game, as did Rick Nash.
Bottom of the Barrel
- The referees giftwrapped the second goal for the Preds, making a terrible call on Derek Dorsett that led to a powerplay.
- The Jackets played very hard, and were the better team on the night. One miscue was the pass from Tyutin to an out-of position Nikita Nikitin that led to the Predators first goal.
The Jackets played a very strong game, but faced a goaltender who played absolutely out of his mind. Steve Mason made the saves he had to, but a poor call by the ref allowed the Preds to go up by two.