COLUMBUS, Ohio – Jake Voracek is learning as he goes through his rookie season.
Voracek watched what was happening in the shootout and applied that knowledge to help the Columbus Blue Jackets and goaltender Steve Mason beat the Nashville Predators 2-1 on Thursday night.
After Kristian Huselius was stopped and Rick Nash scored in the first two rounds of the shootout, Voracek stepped to centre ice with a chance to give the Blue Jackets the advantage.
“They both went wide and he (goaltender Dan Ellis) had space between his legs,” Voracek said. “So I was sure I was going to put it there. I think I hit his pads a little bit. I was a little lucky that it went in.”
Voracek faked a forehand and then slid a backhand through Ellis’ leg pads.
“He quickly stretched it out to the backhand and brought it right back, right away,” Ellis said of Voracek’s move. “A lot of times, a lot of guys will bring it over there and go up, or they’ll bring it over and keep going. He quickly made the move and slid it right across as I was pushing.”
That left it up to Nashville’s Martin Erat, who had given the Predators a 1-0 lead when the teams were skating 4-on-4 midway through the third period.
Mason, who stopped 25 shots, blocked Erat’s forehand snap shot with his shoulder to clinch the win and give the Blue Jackets their first win after losing three in a row, all on the road.
“It was definitely huge,” Mason said of the victory. “Everybody was truly disappointed with how it (the road trip) turned out. We put in a great 60-minute effort here. We were rewarded for it.”
It was the third loss in a row for the Predators.
Columbus tied the game with 6:51 remaining in regulation, a second after a power play ended, when defenceman Mike Commodore notched his first goal in 59 games and first with the Blue Jackets. With R.J. Umberger providing traffic, Commodore’s shot from the right point eluded Ellis, who finished with 35 saves.
Amazingly, Commodore said he found the target by not looking at it.
“I knew I was going to shoot it even before I got it,” he said. “I didn’t even look at the net, to be honest with you. I was just looking at the forward coming out. … I was just trying to shoot it along the ice and hit that gap as hard as I could. And it went in. I didn’t really expect that. Maybe I should shoot it like that more often – not look at the net.”
Columbus was in a 0-0 tie for the first time through two periods this season, while defensive-minded Nashville was in a scoreless game heading into the third period for the fourth time in its past nine games.
Nashville has dominated the series with Columbus, winning 33 of the 48 meetings. For a change, the Predators didn’t leave happy after playing the Blue Jackets.
“It’s frustrating when you’ve got the lead with 10 minutes to go,” Erat said. “We couldn’t hold onto it but if you look at the other side, we’ve played three games in four nights. Everybody’s getting tired. And the mind is getting tired.”
Asked if he thought Mason, a rookie who is 7-4-1 in his first professional season, would wear down soon, Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock made a prediction.
“Yeah, I think definitely in July,” he cracked.
Notes: Columbus LW Kristian Huselius played his 500th NHL game. … Erat came in with just two points in eight games. … The Blue Jackets won their third straight home game. … Columbus improved to 2-8-3 when the opponent scores first. … Nashville RW J.P. Dumont had his six-game points streak end.