COLUMBUS, Ohio – So dominant are the Predators whenever they play the Columbus Blue Jackets that Nashville coach Barry Trotz has come to expect his team to come through.
“I knew we were going to be able to get one (goal) at some point if we just stayed with it long enough,” he said.
David Legwand scored 28 seconds into overtime to give the Predators a 2-1 victory on Thursday night over the team they always seem to bully. The Predators are 22-2-1 against the Blue Jackets over the last four years.
Joel Ward, who also assisted on Andreas Thuresson’s tying goal in the third period, stole the puck from rookie defenceman Mathieu Roy to the left of the net. Ward tapped a pass backward to Legwand in the low slot for his ninth of the season.
“In order to kind of force turnovers, you’ve got to keep your feet moving and try to make them make a play,” Ward said. “It just so happened that on two plays they made mistakes and we just happened to capitalize, which is good for us.”
The Blue Jackets’ Jakub Voracek shattered his stick over the crossbar in frustration as the horn sounded.
Dan Ellis had 31 saves for the Predators. The only goal he surrendered was to Raffi Torres in the first period.
Mathieu Garon stopped 27 shots, but both Predators goals came as a result of giveaways by Columbus in the defensive zone.
“On both goals I thought Joel Ward was a big factor,” Trotz said. “He just hounds pucks.”
The Predators improved to 21-8-2 since Oct. 28.
“You always want to end the year on a winning note. To go into the new year with that same momentum is big for us,” Ellis said. “We’ve got a big homestand coming up. We want to be hitting on all cylinders.”
The Blue Jackets have scored two or fewer goals in their last nine games to tie a franchise record. They have won only three of their last 22 games.
“We’re desperate for wins, especially when we have packed houses,” Columbus captain Rick Nash said. “We want to show our fans we’re a good team. It was a solid game, just some defensive errors came to bite us.”
With Columbus maintaining a 1-0 lead with 7:21 left, the Predators tied it on a giveaway by Fedor Tyutin. The defenceman flicked a pass behind his net directly to Ward, who zipped a pass to Thuresson alone in the slot. The rookie, playing in his 14th game, faked and easily scored his first NHL goal.
“I was just trying to kind of get open in the middle and Wardo did a great job on the forecheck,” said Thuresson, called up from Milwaukee of the AHL last Saturday. “He made a play into me. I was all alone there. I kicked it to myself and shot it post. That was great.”
A minute later, Nash’s shot from the right wing slipped between Ellis’ pads but hit off the far post and ricocheted away from the net.
The Blue Jackets took a 1-0 lead 6:02 in when four players touched the puck in a span of five seconds. Voracek worked his way through traffic, passed the puck to Antoine Vermette, who fed it back to Voracek. Ellis got a piece of Voracek’s shot, and the puck bounced behind Ellis near the goal-line. Torres then dived to jam it in for his 10th goal.
But the defensive lapses were too costly for the Blue Jackets.
“Any time when you can find a way to win in the opposition’s barn, it’s a big night,” Legwand said. “We knew they were going to be focused. They’ve been talking about how they’ve wanted to try to change things around in the second half (of the season). We knew they were going to come out ready. We had to match their intensity. It was a big two points for us.”
NOTES: Columbus RW Mike Blunden cleared waivers. … The Predators were without RW Martin Erat (knee). … Columbus D Mike Commodore, two years into a US$18.75-million, five-year contract, was a healthy scratch for the second straight game. … Nashville improved to 39-11-1-4 against Columbus. … The Predators won for the second time this season when trailing after two periods (2-10-1).