The Nashville Predators opened up the 2011-2012 season with a victory Friday night, defeating the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-2. Going into this game, seven of the last 11 games played between Nashville and Columbus were decided in either overtime or a shootout.
Not this time.
In the first period, it looked as if the Predators would face the same problem they have had for the past several seasons: Their defense is always a strong point of the team, but where does the offense come from? Despite three penalties between the two teams in the first period, no goals were scored.
Ryan Suter drew first blood at 5:10 in the second period with a power play goal off of assists by Sergei Kostitsyn and David Legwand. At 14:19, Vaclav Prospal tied things up for Columbus with a goal off assists by Jeff Carter and Rick Nash. The tie didn’t last long, however, as Craig Smith scored his first career goal with assists from Shea Weber and Ryan Suter.
Only 39 seconds into the third period, Matt Halischuk scored a goal with an assist from Cal O’Reilly to give the Predators a 3-1 lead.
It looked as if the Predators would hang on to that lead until Pekka Rinne made a rare mistake and found himself out of place as Rick Nash crept around the back of the net to get his first goal of the season. Aside from that, Pekka Rinne made some unbelievable saves (and he even got some help from his teammates who also made some pretty sweet blocks) and the most eventful moments were a small shoving match between Ryan Suter and Rick Nash, as well as a pile up for a loose puck right in front of Nashville’s net as time expired.
Overall the Predators played well, with the only exceptions being that there were too many penalties and turnovers in the defensive zone. Smithson also screwed up an attempt on an empty net late in the game that would have effectively ended any hope that Columbus had of forcing overtime. Instead, the puck was turned over and Columbus got a couple more shots on goal before time expired.
Nashville was 1-3 on power play attempts and Columbus went 0-5. Nasvhille managed 31 shots on goal to Columbus’ 34.
The Predators head to St. Louis for their next game tomorrow night against the St. Louis Blues.