With enough time and pressure, a piece of coal can be transformed into a diamond.
Sunday, more than 58 minutes into a contest filled with playoff-like intensity, dramatic momentum swings and — yes — pressure, Shea Weber exited the penalty box and morphed from a rugged defenseman into a puck-moving forward leading an odd-man rush up ice.
The payoff was priceless for the Nashville Predators, who in that moment got the decisive goal in a 3-2 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets before 16,340 at Bridgestone Arena. Weber’s awareness and brief adaptation to a different role set up a shot by Martin Erat, which produced a rebound that David Legwand drove home with 1:35 to go.
“Obviously we had a chance, I just kind of went to the open spot,” Weber said. “[Legwand] made a great pass and I saw I had a lot of time and space.”
Had they lost, the Predators, who had dropped their previous four, would have dropped another spot in the Western Conference standings. They opened play in 10th place, two points ahead of the Blue Jackets, who had won eight of their last 10 and had earned at least a point in nine of 10.
The fact that the decisive goal came in the seconds that followed a power play was something of a change within this particular contest. Three of the previous four of the goals — two of them in the third period — came with the man-advantage.
Columbus converted twice in five opportunities, the fourth straight game in which it did so at least twice. The second came with 14 seconds to go on a hooking call against Legwand and tied it 2-2.
“It was a good goal to tie it up and I think we gained some momentum,” Blue Jackets’ defenseman Kris Russell, who scored that goal unassisted, said. “We had a big power play there at the end and we got some chances. We just can’t give up goals with two minutes left. You’re not going to win games.”
Weber made it 1-1 fewer than two minutes into the final period with a blast from the left facoff circle, 34 seconds into the second of Nashville’s three power plays.
Jonathon Blum scored his first NHL goal and gave the Predators a 2-1 advantage when he scored eight seconds after the expiration of the third, and final Columbus penalty.
“There are a lot of goals that are scored right at the end of a power play,” Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. “A guy comes out of the box and they don’t really account for him or you’re trying to get off and change and a guy gets free.”
In the case of Blum’s goal, Nashville maintained possession in the offensive end as time expired on the penalty and took advantage before Columbus’ defense completely reset.
The next one was the result of a proper reaction to a change of possession at just the right time. Legwand had the puck as Weber left the box and promptly started the rush with a pass to him.
“[Weber] came out of the box and we knew the penalty was ending,” Legwand said. “Those are things you have to be aware of when you’re on the ice. [Weber] knew it and he was behind their defensemen. … It paid off. We kind of caught them a little off-guard there, I think.”
• J-P Dumont was scratched in favor of Jordin Tootoo. It was the third time in the last 15 games the veteran forward was held out of action.
“I just felt like we needed a little more bump in there and a little more speed,” Trotz said. “… J-P has been really solid. I just felt I needed a little bit more speed up front for creating things.”
Tootoo, who was scratched Saturday at Dallas, had two shots and four hits in 9:41 of ice time.
• Blum’s memories of his first career NHL goal will have less to do with the sights than it will the sounds.
“I didn’t even see it go in, to be honest, there was so much traffic,” he said. “… After I scored … it was so loud. You don’t see that type of atmosphere in the minors.”
• Goalie Anders Lindback was recalled from Milwaukee, and Mark Dekanich was reassigned to the Predators’ AHL affiliate.
Lindback was sent down on Tuesday to get some work and went 2-20 with a 2.73 goals-against average. Dekanich, who was recalled for the fourth time, did not see any game action with the Predators.
• With Steve Sullivan on injured reserve, right wing Erat donned the ‘A’ of an alternate captain.