Riding a franchise record point streak, the Jackets went to Nashville, the town where their momentum so often seems to die.
Unfortunately, tonight's game wasn't much different than so much recent history. Making the decision to start Sergei Bobrovsky for the second night of a back to back made some sense on paper, but Bob and the club in front of him didn't look sharp, letting the Predators dictate the pace of the game from the drop of the puck.
Taylor Beck would open the scoring, and things would go from bad to worse when Vinny Prospal was called for a hook on the next possession, with Shea Weber capitalizing on the power play thanks to a blast from the top of the left faceoff circle.
The Jackets attempted to get back into the game when R.J. Umberger drew a hooking penalty, then drove to the net and cashed in to cut the Nashville lead in half, but unfortunately things went into a strange spiral from there. In under thirty seconds, David Legwand scored off a messy scramble at the front of the Columbus net, then Matt Halischuk took the puck away from Colton Gillies in the neutral zone and fired a shot from the top of the Columbus zone that would give the Predators a three goal lead, and signal the end of Bob's night.
Steve Mason would come in to stop the bleeding, but Columbus fans would be given another scary moment when Rich Clune delivered a nasty hit to the head of Artem Anisimov. Clune would be given a five minute major for interference and a game misconduct, but the anemic Columbus power play failed to collect, even after Mike Fisher earned a two minute minor for goalie interference when he broke in shorthanded and clipped Steve Mason across the mask.
Down 4-1 and heavily outshot, the Jackets seemed ready to fold, but things began to turn around in the second period. The team started winning battles along the boards, taking faceoff wins, and finally cutting the lead when Artem Anisimov threw the puck at the net and saw it bounce past Rinne thanks to a deflection off of Mike Fisher's leg.
They would keep the momentum up in the third period, but unfortunately the club simply couldn't generate another goal off Pekka Rinne, and the final insult would come when Roman Josi popped the puck into an empty net with just under 30 seconds left in the game.
It's easy to say the Jackets are going to hit the floor once again after their heroics at home, but I'm not so sure. They certainly had one bad period that cost them this game, but the way they came back and battled through the remaining 40 minutes makes me think they've got more in the tank. It won't be pretty, but I suspect this club has more fight in them than a lot of people may think.
Final Score: Predators 5 - Jackets 2
- Steve Mason - Yes, really. After sitting on the bench for most of the last month, Mase came on in relief and played well, turning aside 12 shots and helping settle down a badly rattled team.
- Artem Anisimov - Recovering from a nasty hit, he returned to the game and helped bring the club back in striking distance, even if it wasn't enough to recover entirely.
- Derick Brassard - The only Jackets' pivot to win more than 50% of his draws, Brass didn't get on the score sheet, but contributed in trying to push the play up ice.
Bottom of The Barrel:
- Power Play - The Clune major and ensuing 5 on 3 could have been a turning point for the Jackets, but the power play simply couldn't push through. James Wisniewski could return to the lineup soon - if so, here's hoping it changes their fortunes.
- Dead Legs - Playing two nights, back to back, isn't fun, but it's also no excuse. The Jackets looked dead for most of this game, and spent the first thirty minutes being badly outskated.
- Sergei Bobrovsky - Bob's been great, but today? Bob had a bad, bad game, and the team paid for it.
The club will stay in Nashville tonight, then make their way to Vancouver to start the Western Canada run of this road trip.
In some ways, this was a great wakeup call. Here's hoping the Blue Jackets listened.