For the Nashville Predators, beating the Columbus Blue Jackets never gets old. Not when they can continue to find new and entertaining ways to do so.
The latest was a perfect example.
Martin Erat’s game-winner with 8.4 seconds to play was the difference in a 6-5 victory Thursday before a sellout crowd at Bridgestone Arena. It was the Predators’ 47th victory in 67 all-time meetings and 28th triumph in 34 contests at home against Columbus, yet this one was different from all the others.
“We want to keep beating them,” center David Legwand said. “Any two points you can get against them and try to break their pride and break their season, obviously, is a huge thing for us.”
Nashville trailed 4-1 in the first period and 5-2 in the second. The difference at those stages was the three goals Columbus scored after Predators’ tough guy Brian McGrattan was assessed a five-minute major (plus a game misconduct) for interference.
The Blue Jackets got all three goals within the first 1:48 of that power play, two by Jeff Carter who at that time, with 3:46 to go in the first period, already had a hat trick.
“It came too easy,” Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. “I’ve seen this so many times in the past where something comes too easy for a team, all of a sudden they’ve got a big lead. All you have to do is chip away because there was a ton of time left. We did that.”
Contrast that to the last time the teams met, exactly two weeks earlier in Columbus. The Predators had to rally in that one too but did so with two extra attacker goals in the final 96 seconds of regulation and then got the game-winner in overtime.
This comeback started in earnest when Nick Spaling scored and made it 5-3 at 8:53 of the second period. That was a mere 61 seconds after Columbus answered an earlier goal by Patric Hornqvist. The deficit was down to one by the second intermission, thanks to Roman Josi’s goal with 6:19 to go in the period.
“After the second period I thought that we were going to have a shot,” goalie Pekka Rinne said. “[Columbus], even though every night they play hard and they seem to match up against us really well, they’ve been having a tough season and I’m sure their confidence is not that high.
“After we came back and it’s a one-goal difference. It’s a tough situation for the team that’s leading. It’s not easy to keep that lead when you already had a three-goal lead [twice]. You start doubting yourself. … We just outplayed them in the third period.”
The Predators had a 13-7 edge in shots, won 16 of 28 faceoffs and — most importantly — scored the only two goals over the final 20 minutes.
Legwand finally tied it with a power play goal, Nashville’s second of the contest, with 3:49 remaining. Erat then took a pass from Ryan Suter, split two defensemen and had four Blue Jackets players chasing him down the slot as he slid the puck between the pads of goalie Curtis Sanford.
“We’ve been pretty good against them in the past,” Legwand said. “Obviously, the last two we’ve had to come back. Those are character wins. And good for us.”
• Carter’s hat trick was the first in a Predators game this season and the 27th all-time against Nashville. The last opponent to get one was Phoenix’s Ed Jovanovski on Nov. 3, 2010.
It was just the second time the Predators won when they allowed a hat trick.
• Predators players and coaches felt a penalty should have been called against McGrattan but not the five-minute major that was and resulted in three goals against.
“It was a little bit of a late hit, but it wasn’t anything from behind,” Trotz said. “… When I looked at it [on video] I thought, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’ ”
• Nashville has little time to savor this victory. It plays at Dallas, 7:30 p.m. Friday.
The Stars are one of only three Western Conference teams (Colorado and Chicago are the others) the Predators have not yet faced this season.