If you've been a fan of the Jackets for any length of time, you know that Nashville's rink has been a house of horrors for the Jackets over the years. The Predators have long been the nemesis of the Jackets, and though they are now in different conferences, the thought of a game in Tennessee still brings some nervousness.
The Jackets entered the game with open mental wounds from their ugly defeat at the hands of the Blackhawks on Thursday. There was a major shakeup of the lines, with the most notable change being the healthy scratch of Cam Atkinson. Also prior to the game was the announcement that stud rookie defender Ryan Murray will miss the rest of the regular season due to having surgery on his knee. These factors combined to give a lack of hope going into the game tonight.
The negatives seemed to dog the Jackets in the opening period, as the Preds dominated in the shot department. The Jackets managed to match the Preds in the physicality department, with Nathan Horton dishing out some big hits early.
Midway through the period, Jack Johnson was whisted for boarding and the Preds were given a plum opportunity to take the lead. A Roman Jose shot found iron, among a barrage of point shots while on the man advantage. At one point, Sergei Bobrovsky was beaten, with the puck lying in the crease. It would have made for an easy tap-in, if not for the goal-saving sweep of the puck by James Wisniewski.
The Jackets' best chance came on a two-on-one break for Ryan Johansen and Boone Jenner. Johansen kept, shot, but was denied by Pekka Rinne. On the same shift, solid effort from Johansen drew a penalty, but the Jackets were unsuccessful on the ensuing powerplay.
If not for the solid play of Bobrovksy, the score after one period could have been very lopsided. Instead, it was tied at gooseeggs.
With the first 20 minutes being all Nashville, it was the Jackets turn to dominate play as the second period started. Artem Anisimov got things started with an incredible effort, shredding the Nashville defense, almost getting a shot off before forcing Nashville rookie Seth Jones to hook him in front of Rinne.
The powerplay that ensued was ugly, the Jackets failed to keep it simple, forcing the issue and failing to generate anything constructive. The 26th-ranked Nashville penalty kill was made to seem elite by the Jackets' ineffectiveness.
With both teams looking for a spark, Corey Tropp and Eric Nystrom dropped the mitts in an attempt to offer their respective teams a boost. Neither player is a heavyweight, but the scrap was inspired and we'll call it a draw.
Moments later, R.J. Umberger's beak (always getting in the way of sticks) took a whack from Viktor Stalberg on the faceoff. He was leaking, so the Jackets were given a four-minute powerplay. Terrific opportunity right? You'd think so, but Nashville's terrible kill again looked like world-beaters. Near the end of the advantage the Jackets did have some solid chances, so there's that.
The Johansen was easily the more dangerous unit in the second period, with Boone Jenner snakebit on a couple of opportunities. It's easy to forget that Boone is a rookie at times, his game is so mature and his contributions and spot in the top-six can't be overlooked.
With the Jackets outshooting the Preds 15-4 in the middle frame, the game seemed to even out going into the final period. Columbus was the team that came out flying however, with Dalton Prout clanking one of the post early in the period. Prout has been very good since his recent stint in Springfield, and subsequent callup.
As the period wore on, the game remained a grinding, intense affair, though the Jackets again had the better offensive chances. A powerplay thanks to Nick Foligno getting dumped behind the Nashville net again bore no fruit, though Columbus did look more organized.
If not for the heroics of Pekka Rinne, Columbus could have been up by three or four goals. I don't think it's a stretch to say that if Rinne hadn't missed most of the season with an injury and unfortunate infection of his surgery site, the Predators would be in the playoffs again. They likely wouldn't have sold David Legwand at the deadline, and instead would have likely been buyers, an offensive forward being their target. I've always had a ton of admiration for the way that Nashville operates, and now that they are in the other conference, I can openly root for them to do well. Five quick reasons to pull for them- 1) You have to respect Barry Trotz. His tenure is unheard of. 2) The Preds have a clear identity- tough, hard to play against, intense, great work ethic. 3) They have an enviable blueline corps, even if they end up moving Shea Weber. 4) Agree of disagree, but their current sweaters are unique and awesome. 5) They have one of the best broadcasting tandems in sports.
Anyway, enough about them.
At the 13:35 mark of the third period, the deadlock was broken.
Anisimov made a good play in the defensive zone to gain control of the puck. He raced up-ice, dropping the puck back to Wisniewski at the Nashville blueline. Wisniewski immediatly fed the puck back to Anisimov deeper in the zone, and Arty cut to the net, stickhandling in front before sliding a backhand into the net.
1-0 Columbus - Anisimov - Wisniewski, Tropp
The goal was Arty's 19th of the season, a career high. Since he has returned from the Olympics, Anisimov's been brilliant. From a personal point of view, he's quickly becoming a favorite.
Rinne was pulled with around 90 seconds left. Nashville poured on the pressure, hitting a post, and coming agonizingly close to tieing it up, but Bobrovksy slammed the door shut.
FINAL SCORE: 1-0 Jackets
- Sergei Bobrovksy / Pekka Rinne - The goaltenders were terrific, and deserve major accolades.
- Arty. The Party continues!
- It was a total team effort by the Jackets tonight. They went into a tough rink, and played a perfect road game, showing discipline and a strong work ethic,
Bottom of the Barrel:
- Just one thing- our buddy Rimer calling referring to David Savard as Letestu constantly. Also, when discussing Rusty Klesla's NHL retirement he says "continue in his native Czechoslovakia". C'mon Rims. Otherwise, this category is not to be filled out after such a hard-earned victory.
Here are the advanced stats for tonight's game, courtesy of Extra Skater.
The Jackets are back in action on Monday when they take on the Stars.