Paul Kariya and Martin Erat each had a goal and an assist as the Predators – two points ahead of Detroit atop the Central Division – beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-1 Monday night. “Winning hockey games is our job. We want to improve our game. You want to keep improving and then when playoff time comes, you’re ready,” Nashville coach Barry Trotz said.
Tomas Vokoun lost his shutout bid when Jason Chimera scored with 15 seconds left but finished with 23 saves in his 10th win of the season. Scott Nichol also scored for Nashville, which has won 13 of 16.
“Really close,” he said of the timing of Chimera’s goal. “I’m not the kind of guy who’s worried about shutouts. You’d rather not give up goals, but we got the win.”
The Blue Jackets have dropped a season-high six straight. They entered with the fewest points (11) and goals scored (39) in the NHL and were nearly shut out for the third time in five contests.
“We are not getting the job done from an offensive standpoint. For the most part, we played well defensively, we are just not generating anything offensively,” Blue Jackets interim coach Gary Agnew said.
Columbus’ Adam Foote, who entered a team-worst minus-11, couldn’t keep a bouncing puck in the Nashville zone. Erat banked a lead pass off the boards to Kariya, who scooped it up, cut in alone down the left wing and beat goaltender Fredrik Norrena with a backhand move to make it 1-0 at 9:49 of the first period.
“The last two or three games I’ve had a lot of chances, and the puck is going in. It’s always nice to score,” Kariya said.
Nashville made it 2-0 early in the second period on a power-play goal by Nichol. Steve Sullivan skated the length of the ice and fended off several Blue Jackets players. He put on the brakes and sent a cross-ice pass to David Legwand at the left circle. Legwand one-timed the puck to Nichol for a tap-in.
Sullivan has seven points in four games and leads the team with 21 points.
Columbus played with little enthusiasm early, registering only five shots midway through the game.
On a delayed penalty late in the period, Nashville worked the puck around. Kariya sent a shot toward the net that was redirected by Erat to make it 3-0 at 18:28. The goal ended his nine-game drought.
Chimera jammed home a lose puck in the slot for his second of the season.
Notes: Columbus is 0-4 under Agnew. … The teams don’t meet again until Jan. 12. … Columbus LW Rick Nash, who left Saturday’s game against Nashville with a sore groin, didn’t play.