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Don't Ease Off That Throttle!

The Nashville Predators 12-game winning streak over the Columbus Blue Jackets came to an end Saturday night, dropping a 2-1 decision in the shootout. Frankly, this is one the Preds should have had sown up, after taking a 1-0 lead late in the second period on a nice goal by Alexander Radulov. Right from the outset of the 3rd period, however, it appeared that Nashville was trying to just run out the clock. Forwards would merely gain the red line with possession and dump it into the Columbus end, making time for quick line changes.

Just past halfway through the 3rd, however, Dan Hamhuis gave the puck away to Nikolai Zherdev deep in the Predators zone, and a quick feed to Rostislav Klesla resulted in a shot that beat Chris Mason (who was generally strong in the Nashville net) to tie things up with 9:15 left. Once they remembered that offense was part of the game as well, the Predators went on the attack and threatened to score the game-winner in regulation; up through the Klesla goal, the Blue Jackets outshot Nashville 7-1 in the third, whereas afterwards Nashville outshot Columbus 8-2.

The Predators' best opportunity came late as Jason Arnott got the puck all alone off to the right of the Columbus net, but instead of firing at an open short-side corner, he tried to feed a crossing pass to J.P. Dumont which got broken up. Dumont's six-game goal scoring streak came to an end, though he did set up Radulov's score in the second, keeping his point-scoring streak alive at seven games. That top line of Radulov-Arnott-Dumont was effective throughout the game. On the opposite end, Zherdev and Rick Nash were the main threats for Columbus. Nash's speed and strength were tangible difference-makers, causing fits for Nashville defenders.

Outside of those first 10 minutes of the third, Nashville played a well-balanced and disciplined game, with only one penalty to Martin Gelinas for tripping and few big gaffes outside the Hamhuis giveaway noted above. Forwards were doing an especially good job backchecking all night long, and in the first two periods those defensive efforts resulted in dangerous offensive chances, as the Predators launched quick rushes the other way after regaining the puck.

In the shootout, all three Nashville shooters (Radulov, Erat, Dumont) failed to score, while Zherdev scored for Columbus, and Chris Mason stopped Michael Peca and Rick Nash.

Having at least gained one point in the standings, the Predators return home tomorrow to face a depleted Chicago Blackhawks team, which is coming off a 5-2 loss to Minnesota Friday night.

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