NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Trading for Marian Gaborik is already paying off for the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Gaborik scored the go-ahead goal at 4:16 of the third period and added an assist in his debut Thursday night with Columbus, helping the Blue Jackets beat the Predators 3-1 for a rare win in Nashville.
“You just have to look at it as a fresh start, and he made it look really good for himself today,” Columbus forward Vinny Prospal said of his new teammate.
Gaborik said it felt good to come out and play and net his first goal so quickly.
“I am pleasantly surprised with the speed of the team,” Gaborik said. “The young guys and small forwards were flying. We were supporting each other out there, and everyone contributed. (Sergei) Bobrovsky was tremendous making save after save, so he kept us in there.”
Wins have been so rare for Columbus in Nashville that this was just their seventh overall and first in regulation since April 3, 2006—a span of 22 games.
The Blue Jackets have won twice this season in the series between Central Division rivals, and their timing couldn’t be better as they fight for crucial points in the standings.
“To be able to take two points out of this building is huge, and we have to keep this thing going in St. Louis,” Columbus left wing Matt Calvert said.
Matt Calvert also had a goal and an assist, James Wisniewski had a power-play goal, and Brandon Dubinsky had two assists. Bobrovsky made 38 saves as the teams combined for 77 shots with Nashville taking a season-high 39.
Kevin Klein scored a goal for Nashville, which slipped one point behind Columbus and into 11th place in the Western Conference.
“We just have to worry about the next game and put our absolute best effort in,” Nashville coach Barry Trotz said.
The Blue Jackets had a goal waved off after officials ruled Calvert kicked the puck into the net at 6:42 of the third, a goal that would have put Columbus ahead 3-1. Calvert scored a goal at 10:50 that didn’t require a review. He sent a wrister from just inside the blue line that Pekka Rinne hit with his blocker, but the puck bounced over him.
“You put pucks on net, you never know what happens,” Calvert said.
Columbus had Gaborik on the ice wearing No. 10 after sending a private plane to bring him to Nashville on Wednesday. The Blue Jackets sent three players and a draft pick to the New York Rangers for the veteran forward and two minor league defencemen.
Forward Blake Comeau, a trade pickup from Calgary, is expected to join Columbus in St. Louis on Friday.
Columbus made all the moves to build on March, the best month in the franchise’s history. The Blue Jackets, who have made the playoffs only once, are one place below the post-season cutoff in the West.
The Predators sent right wing Martin Erat to Washington for top prospect Filip Forsberg at Wednesday’s trade deadline. Nashville showed plenty of energy, outshooting Columbus 13-8 in the first period and forcing Bobrovsky to make several saves in the opening minutes.
Bobrovsky also stopped Sergei Kostitsyn on a breakaway in the second.
Gaborik earned his first point with Columbus, helping the Blue Jackets go ahead 1-0 on Wisniewski’s power-play goal. The teams were skating 4-on-4 when Nashville captain Shea Weber was penalized for hooking at 8:21 of the second. Columbus needed only 15 seconds before Dubinsky passed the puck out to Wisniewski for a slap shot from the high slot.
“They’re a good team this year without him,” Weber said of Gaborik. “He’s a great player, and he helps them be a little better and a little bit more dynamic offensively.”
The new right wing scored his first goal with Columbus and 10th this season at 4:16 of the third when he redirected a backhanded pass from Dubinsky—his former Rangers teammate.
Columbus coach Todd Richards said Gaborik brings the threat of a playmaker with speed, backing off Nashville’s defencemen through the neutral zone.
“The other thing it provides is kind of an intangible thing about just confidence among our group, having a guy that’s a threat to score a goal at any minute,” Richards said. “He scored a big goal for us in the third period.”
Nashville tied it at 12:14 by catching Bobrovsky with his stick in front of him in the crease and not in his hand. Klein scored on a wrister that Bobrovsky couldn’t stop even as he tried to twist himself over to his left, missing the puck. That was it against Bobrovsky.
Notes: Rinne was called for tripping Nick Foligno at 14:54 of the first period, giving him six penalty minutes this season. Only three other goalies have multiple penalties this season. … Columbus is 4-5 in the first game of back-to-back sets this season. … Wisniewski’s goal was the second by Columbus on a 4-on-3 this season. … Klein has points (1 goal, 2 assists) in three consecutive games to match the longest streak of his career. … Nashville C David Legwand has seven points (3 goals, 4 assists) in five games.