Finally, after a two week break, the Columbus Blue Jackets were back in action at home against the Nashville Predators. These Blue Jackets also looked different than the last time they were on the ice. Emil Bemstrom made his season debut, Patrik Laine and Adam Boqvist both returned from injury, and Oliver Bjorkstrand joined Eric Robinson and Joonas Korpisalo on the COVID protocol list.
The biggest question going into the game was how the Blue Jackets would handle their first game in two weeks. With Nashville having played the night before, the Jackets needed to find their legs sooner rather than later. Also on their minds had to be the 6-0 rout the Jackets received in Nashville a month earlier.
The rust showed early for the Jackets. The Predators struck first on a two-on-one rush. The home team couldn’t find their legs and McCarron was able to rip one past Elvis from in close.
NSH Goal 1-0: McCarron (Luff, Tomasino) 2:50
It didn’t take long for the good guys to answer. Laine and Voracek continued their chemistry and helped swing momentum by creating a few chances. Vladislov Gavrikov took a shot off a nice pass from Boqvist while Jenner was streaking across the crease and the captain was able to redirect it for his 12th goal of the season.
CBJ Goal 1-1: Jenner (Gavrikov, Boqvist) 6:26
Jake Bean went off for cross checking at 7:38 to give the Predators their first man advantage of the night. The Jackets’ kill did a great job of limiting high danger chances and Elvis Merzlikins made three stops to keep the game tied at one. The penalty kill seemed to give Columbus a jump and they no longer looked like they were skating through mud.
The rest of the period was an uneventful back and forth and the Predators won the shot battle 12-6. The Blue Jackets may have lost the shot battle and the possession battle in the first period, but they managed to limit the Predators to only three high danger chances. Given the rust and the lineup changes, although not ideal, it wasn’t a terrible period overall.
Noteworthy: Texier continued his good play in the first period. Something good seems to happen in the majority of his shifts. He was great on the kill and produced a few chances going the other way. I get that Larsen doesn’t want to break up Texier, Kuraly, and Robinson, but at some point you have to wonder if Texier deserves a shot at playing with the likes of Laine, Voracek, and Bjorkstrand.
Just 24 seconds into the new period, Patrik Laine got on the board for the first time after missing 19 games. A Laine-Voracek-Laine tic-tac-toe gave Rittich no chance at the save. The goal was off its moorings while the puck crossed the line, but since it was the Predator goalie that knocked it off it was a good goal.
CBJ Goal 2-1: Laine (Voracek, Jenner) 0:24
The Jackets went back on the kill when Boqvist committed a holding penalty. Once again, the kill did a good job of limiting quality chances. After the penalty expired, Peeke and Jeannot dropped gloves after a big hit along the boards. Unfortunately, it was a decisive victory for the Predator.
The fight may have been lost, but Jeannot picked up an additional two minutes for roughing and the Jackets got their first power play of the night. There were a couple good chances and a few Laine bombs that missed the net, but the score remained the same.
After a missed two-on-one chance one way, the Predators went the other way and managed to score what could be considered a luck goal. From the goal line, Cousins was able to bank the puck off the back of Elvis after hitting a small opening between Merzlikins and the post.
NSH Goal 2-2: Cousins (Duchene) 15:31
Immediately after the goal, Peeke went off for high sticking. That’s, um, not ideal after just giving up a goal. The Predators scored just fifteen seconds into the power play when former Blue Jacket Ryan Johansen cleaned up a rebound in front of the net.
NSH PP Goal 3-2: Johansen (Duchene) 16:06
After a good start to the period, the Jackets got caved in the rest of the way. The Predators won the 5v5 shot battle 12-5 and boasted an overall 65% 5v5 shot attempt advantage through the first two periods.
Noteworthy: Peeke has intentionally been more physical and aggressive this season. It has led to some better defense, but it has also led to some bad penalties. His penalty that resulted in Nashville’s third goal was irresponsible and unnecessary.
The ice tilted towards the Blue Jackets to start the third period. Danforth was able to draw a penalty right before the first commercial break to give the Jackets their second power play of the evening. The puck movement by the first unit was good, but it never resulted in any quality chances. Domi had an opportunity on a one-timer as the penalty wound down, but Rittich managed to get a shoulder on it.
Nyquist took Bjorkstrand’s spot on the first power play unit. That decision seems like a bit of a head scratcher. I’m not sure putting a guy that’s been struggling to produce offensively on the first unit is the most effective use of the roster. It would have been nice to see Texier get a shot there. But what do I know? I’m not the coach.
Speaking of Texier, the youngster made several great plays to tie the game up late in the period. A great individual effort by Texier got the puck into the zone against several Predator defenders. Nyquist got the puck in deep, but a Predator clearing attempt ended up on Texier’s stick in the slot. The Frenchman was able to rocket the puck past Rittich — it was his tenth goal of the season.
CBJ Goal 3-3: Texier (unassisted) 13:33
Noteworthy: After losing the possession battle in the first two periods, it was great to see the Jackets persevere and win the third period. Even strength shot attempts tilted towards Columbus 19-11 and the eye test showed Nashville on their heels for most of the period.
It was the Merzlikins and Rittich show to begin OT. Both goalies made great saves on two-on-one rushes to keep the game alive for their teams.
Chinakhov drew a cross checking penalty in the offensive zone to give the Blue Jackets a chance to ice the game. As 4-on-3 power plays often go, the team with the man advantage looked dangerous. Nashville’s Ekholm managed to get a stick in the way of a Laine shot at a wide open net. The Finn’s rust showed a bit as he struggled to get shots on net with his one-timer.
The Jackets had every opportunity to end the game in OT after dominating the extra period.
Chinakhov, Laine, and Voracek were all denied their attempts.
Ryan Johansen had an opportunity to end the game and decided to go with his patented showdown move. Elvis stood strong and easily swatted the puck away from the frustrated Predator.
Texier scored another filthy five-hole goal, but Granlund was able to answer to keep the shootout alive.
NIIIIIICE SHOOTIN' TEX pic.twitter.com/502dhJlaRR— Columbus Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) December 31, 2021
Nyquist made his attempt look easy and Elvis saved Nashville’s remaining chance to give the Blue Jackets two points.
That's one clutch Goose pic.twitter.com/CWY9JEWmbs— Columbus Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) December 31, 2021
This game was a bit of a rollercoaster. The ice tilted heavily toward Nashville for the first two periods, but the Jackets were able to hang tight and won the third period. Although the stats won’t show it, Elvis played a really good game. He gave up three goals on 34 shots, but he continues to get hung out to dry by his defense. He made some big saves when his team was on the ropes and robbed the Predators of a game winner in OT.
Texier continues his upward trajectory. He was noticeable all game long, scored the game tying goal, and delivered again in the shootout.
It’s a little frustrating to see Sillinger and Chinakhov playing fourth line minutes. Chinakhov only played 7:55 at 5v5 — Sillinger 10:27. Sillinger hasn’t been very noticeable recently, but Chinakhov was a positive impact player tonight. A decision needs to be made with these kids because they aren’t getting big minutes with the big club. If that’s going to continue being the trend, they both need to be sent to Cleveland once regular AHL play resumes.
Welcome back, Laine. We missed you.
Nyquist/Kuraly/Texier — CF% of 53 ... one goal for/zero against ... zero high danger chances against
Chinakhov/Sillinger/Danforth — CF% of 46 ... one goal against ... 6:42 TOI 5v5
The Blue Jackets return to action Saturday at Nationwide with a 1:00 PM EST matinee against the Hurricanes.