Shea Weber does not spend a lot of time weighing the merits of his slap shot versus a less powerful alternative.
Not when the Nashville Predators’ captain has the puck on his stick in the offensive end, at least. In those moments, he has just one thing on his mind.
“I’m just trying to get the pucks through,” Weber said. “We have a good group of guys who will go to the front of the net. We witnessed that [Sunday]. Guys were putting the rebounds in and creating traffic.”
Weber scored just one goal but three of his shots eventually found their way into the net — all in the second period — as the Predators overcame an early deficit for a 4-1 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets before 14,593 at Bridgestone Arena.
The Predators trailed from the opening minute, when they allowed a goal 37 seconds into the contest, until Weber blasted a slap shot past goalie Steve Mason, with the aid of a screen from Patric Hornqvist. That tied it 1-1 at 2:59 of the second period.
It was a Weber wrist shot that created a rebound, which Nick Spaling converted for a 2-1 lead with 6:09 to play in the period. Just 2:59 later, another Weber slap shot resulted in a rebound that Hornqvist flipped into the back of the net.
“He has probably the hardest shot in the league,” Hornqvist said. “When he shoots it, we have to make sure we have two guys around the net. Some nights we get lucky and the puck lands right on our sticks so we put it in.”
Weber finished with a game-high nine shot attempts — five on net, three blocked, one miss — and one-third of them became goals one way or another.
In this season’s first two games against the Blue Jackets, Weber got just four shots through to the net and had no points.
“He’s got one of the best shots in the league,” Columbus coach Scott Arniel said. “We have to pay close attention. In the two games in our building, we did a good job nullifying that shot, but [Sunday] we gave him enough room that it became a factor.”
Following a five-game losing streak, Nashville has scored four goals in back-to-back games, something that has happened only twice previously this season.
Weber has assists on four of those eight goals in addition to having scored one of his own. That surge has lifted him into a tie with defense partner Ryan Suter for the team assists lead with 14.
“We have some guys who are really good at shooting pucks — obviously [Weber] and I think [Suter] shoots it really well,” coach Barry Trotz said. “You don’t have to beat the goalie all the time. Sometimes you have people in front and it’s just about getting it through … with a little bit of velocity and it creates good chances.
“You look at the last couple games and we were able to get to the [crease] and shots are getting through from the point. We’re not trying to get too fine and overpower a goalie, and we’re getting rewarded for it.”
• Center Cal O’Reilly, one of the Predators’ top scorers and one of seven Nashville players who appeared in each of the first 38 contests, will miss an extended period with a fractured fibula.
O’Reilly was injured with 12:02 to play when he absorbed an open-ice hit from Columbus’ Derek Dorsett.
“It doesn’t look good,” Trotz said. “I think he’s going to miss some time here.”
O’Reilly currently is tied for third on the team with 18 points (six goals, 12 assists).
• Nashville outshot Columbus 26-20 for the game after the Blue Jackets had an 8-7 edge over the opening 20 minutes.
“[Pekka Rinne] saved us in the first period,” Hornqvist said. “We were not very good, but he saved us. After that we took over, the momentum went back to us and we won the game.”
• Spaling’s goal was the second of his career.
It took him 50 games to get the first, which he scored Dec. 13 against the New York Islanders. It took him only eight games to get the second.
“I was trying to shorten it up,” he joked.