COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Columbus Blue Jackets have had a world of trouble beating the Nashville Predators the past two years.
Some fresh faces – and some help from the Predators – finally got them over the hump. Rick Nash scored twice and rookies Nikita Filatov and Jake Voracek added the fastest goals in franchise history in the Columbus Blue Jackets’ 5-3 victory over the Nashville Predators on Friday night.
“It was wildly exciting,” coach Ken Hitchcock said after his team almost wasted a 4-0 lead. “A few more like this and they’re going to put us in the loony bin.”
The victory ended Nashville’s string of 16 consecutive games with a point against Columbus (15-0-1). It was the longest active streak in an NHL regular-season series.
“To be honest, I really don’t care. As far as I’m concerned I’m 1-0 as a Blue Jacket against Nashville,” off-season free-agent signee Mike Commodore said. “I know a lot of past times were tough and they obviously dominated the series and that counts for something; good for them. But as far as I’m concerned … I really don’t care.”
Filatov – an 18-year-old playing in his first career NHL game – and Voracek scored eight seconds apart in the opening period as the Blue Jackets took a 3-0 lead. Nash had opened the scoring, then added his second goal in the opening minute of the second period to push the lead to 4-0.
Blue Jackets goalie Pascal Leclaire stopped a hard shot with the palm side of his blocker with just over five minutes left, then left the ice in pain while holding out his bare right hand. The club said he didn’t break any bones, just bruised a thumb. He will not play when the teams meet again Saturday night in Nashville.
The Predators made things interesting by scoring twice in 11 seconds midway through the second period on goals by Greg de Vries and Scott Nichol, before J.P. Dumont scored early in the third period to narrow the gap to a goal.
But Jason Chimera jammed in a shot during a scrum midway through the final period.
“It’s nice any time you get a win against those guys,” he said. “No matter how you look at it, you can say it doesn’t bother you but it’s always in the back of your mind. The media brings it up all the time, so it helps you remember it.”
The Predators were playing their fourth road game in five starts, while Columbus played its home opener after starting with a three-game Western road trip.
After Nash opened the scoring, Fredrik Modin set up Filatov’s first NHL goal by carrying the puck behind the net while dogged by a defender, then sliding a centring pass that Filatov buried with a one-timer from the slot. He celebrated with a fist pump while gliding to the short boards on one knee.
“I don’t know how many – 18,000, 19,000 here – and in Russia it’s never like this,” Filatov said. “I was really excited and maybe a little bit nervous before the game. After warmup, I was OK.”
Before that goal could be announced, Voracek netted his second of the season when he chipped in a centring pass from yet another Columbus rookie, Derick Brassard, past goalie Pekka Rinne.
“The first three goals they got were a little bit weak,” Predators coach Barry Trotz said. “That gave them all the momentum. We battled back, but there’s no consolation. They’ve got a good team. We think we’ve got a pretty good team. We match up pretty well. Tomorrow I’m sure the intensity will get ramped up.”
After deVries beat Leclaire on the glove side on a slap shot from the top of the circle, Nichol rocketed in from the right wing and slid a soft goal past Leclaire. The goals, 11 seconds apart, were the second-fastest in Nashville’s decade in the NHL.
Notes: Before the game, the Blue Jackets remembered team founder and principal owner John H. McConnell, who died last spring at the age of 84. A banner bearing his name and initials was lifted to the rafters. … Columbus D Mike Commodore played the 300th game of his career.