A shootout was a fitting conclusion to Thursday’s game between the Nashville Predators and Columbus Blue Jackets because — unlike most nights — the tiebreaking procedure was consistent with much of what took place during the preceding 60 minutes of regulation and five minutes of overtime.
“We gave up way too many breakaways (Thursday),” coach Barry Trotz said. “They had some great chances. We had some great chances. It was entertaining for the fans.”
Things got even more entertaining when the skater-versus-goalie showdown extended past the regulation three attempts. Nashville’s fourth shooter, Jason Arnott, pushed things even farther when he matched the successful attempt of Columbus’ fourth, Fedor Tyutin.
Steve Sullivan finally ended it after five rounds when he scored with a forehand shot and lifted the Predators to a 4-3 victory before 14,601 at the Sommet Center.
Sullivan was the third Nashville skater to convert in the shootout against Columbus goalie Mathieu Garon, who had won a league record 13 straight shootouts and 18 of 22 in his career.
“My pad was there,” Garon said. “I don’t know if he just beat me; I don’t know if my pad was not flat on the ice. I’ll have to check the replay. I thought I had him when I saw him make his move.”
The Predators (18-11-2, 38 points) led three times throughout regulation, the third when Arnott converted an unlikely breakaway opportunity with 28 seconds to play in the second period. Columbus’ Jakub Voracek beat defenseman Ryan Suter to the puck, which negated an icing call.
When the puck came out of the corner toward the front of the Nashville net, defenseman Shea Weber promptly cleared it for what looked like it might be an icing the other way. Arnott, though, lingered near the far blue line, gathered in the puck onside and then beat Garon one-on-one.
Suter missed the puck again early in the third period and once again in turned into a goal — this time for Columbus (14-11-6, 34 points).
His failed attempt to keep the puck in the offensive zone allowed Blue Jackets’ forward Rick Nash to go free in the other direction. He converted and tied it 3-3 with 15:42 to go in the third.
“He made a great shot, just inside the post and over my pad,” goalie Pekka Rinne, who stopped Nash during the shootout, said. “I couldn’t reach it with my blocker.”
A little more than three minutes later, Rinne turned back another Blue Jackets’ breakaway, this one by R.J. Umberger.
“He made a huge save there,” Trotz said. “I think if they score there, they walk away with a win. That, to me, was a real huge save.”
The teams combined for 71 shots in regulation and overtime — 40 by Nashville and 31 by Columbus.
It was just the fifth time this season a Predators’ game had at least that many. The most combined shots thus far was 77 back on Nov. 21 — the only other time Columbus was in town.
“They’re a good team,” Suter said. “They play hard, have a lot of skill and they have a lot of good players over there. It kind of opened up in the third period. They got that breakaway and that really opened things up.”
• The Predators have now won 13 straight at home against the Blue Jackets, a streak which dates back to Nov. 18, 2006 and includes two games this season — both shootouts.
“I don’t keep stats like that,” Trotz said. “That’s history. There’s different players, different team, a different day. … It’s falling in our favor right now, so we’ll take it.”
• Martin Erat has scored at least one goal in four consecutive games, which equals the longest such streak of his career.
He has scored six (with two assists) over that span. The only other time he scored in four straight (Nov. 2-10, 2005) he had a total of four goals.
• Center Dave Scatchard returned to the Nashville lineup after having missed the previous five games with an upper body injury. He put the Predators up 1-0 when he scored at 11:03 of the first.
“I thought (Scatchard) was really good,” Trotz said. “… I thought he was real solid. Defensively he was good. He was good on draws.”