Predators still riding good feelings from rally at Columbus

Wednesday, December 14, 2011 at 11:25pm

The Nashville Predators have beaten the Columbus Blue Jackets — plenty of times, in fact.

Coming into this season, Nashville had won 44 of 63 all-time meetings between the franchises, including 17 straight at Bridgestone Arena. In that regard, last Thursday’s 4-3 victory over the Blue Jackets in Columbus was no different.

It was, however, a difference-maker. With two goals in the final 96 seconds of regulation to force overtime and Colin Wilson’s game-winner 1:45 later that Predators were transformed.

“Actually that was the biggest game of the year so far,” right wing Patric Hornqvist said. “Those last two minutes really changed the momentum in this room. Now we are getting our confidence back. We’re playing better. We’re playing harder. It’s exactly how we want to play.

“So those two minutes at the end of the Columbus game was big for this team.”

Nashville has maintained the momentum from those closing moments with two more victories — Saturday against Anaheim and Tuesday over Calgary. It outshot the opposition by a combined 21 shots in those games. It trailed Anaheim briefly before they scored three straight in the second and third periods and never got behind the Flames.

As a result, the Predators have won three straight for the first time this season. They look to add to that streak Thursday against Detroit (7 p.m., Bridgestone Arena).

“Those moments that you’re able to find a way to win can really catapult you to doing something right,” coach Barry Trotz said. “I would say that really sort of cleared the air for us. We were sort of struggling a lot and every game was a real battle. It wasn’t real joyful to be here.

“Then you find a way to win the way we did and it’s been a lot more joyful. And guys have been pretty on spot in terms of being ready to go and detailed and they’ve had real good focus.”

In the seven seasons since the lockout canceled the entire 2004-05 campaign, this is the longest it took Nashville to win three in a row — by a wide margin. Every other season in that time a stretch of three straight wins was in the books by the middle of November.

Twice, including last season, the Predators won their first three — period — if not more.

After back-to-back victories to open this season they lost four straight, three in regulation.

They won two in a row three more times, the last time on Nov. 15 and 17. A four-game losing streak followed, beginning with an overtime loss at home to Columbus, and began a run of seven defeats in nine games, which included a 4-1 defeat at Detroit in the only meeting thus far between the teams.

It looked as if it was going to be eight defeats in 10 outings before last week’s rally against the Blue Jackets.

“When things aren’t going great in a season, like we had going on a little earlier, you look for things to build off of,” Wilson, who had recorded two of the last three game-winning goals, said. “A win like that —a big win — gets everybody’s confidence [up], gets good spirits in the dressing room and that’s what we’ve been building on.”