Right from the drop of the puck — literally — penalties took a prominent place in Saturday’s game between the Nashville Predators and Columbus Blue Jackets.
There were two fights within the first 62 seconds, the first when Nashville’s Jordin Tootoo and Columbus’ Derek Dorsett tossed aside their sticks and dropped their gloves as the first second ticked off the clock.
Not a lot of penalties followed, but many that did had an impact. Each side scored twice on the power play, and three of those four goals broke a tie.
It was Blue Jackets defenseman James Wisniewski’s even-strength goal at 2:43 of overtime that snapped the final deadlock. Wisniewski’s shot from the point got past goalie Pekka Rinne and sent the Predators with a 4-3 defeat before 16,776 at Bridgestone Arena.
“I didn’t like our penalties,” Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. “We only had four, but I didn’t like the two offensive [zone] penalties and then we had two in the third that I have to look at again.”
The Predators are now 1-4 in overtime this season with three of those defeats over the last nine games. They set up the overtime in this one when Nick Spaling got their only even-strength goal and tied it with 5:31 remaining in regulation.
The victory was the Blue Jackets’ first on the road this season (1-7-1) and their first in the last 18 visits to Bridgestone Arena, a streak which dates back to April 3, 2006 (a 3-1 Columbus victory).
“Every point is huge and we’ll take it,” Spaling said. “But our focus was the two points [for a victory].”
Nashville had allowed more than one power play goals in a game just once this season, a 5-1 loss at Vancouver on Oct. 20 when it was shorthanded 10 times.
Columbus got its second – and took the lead for the first time – at 1:45 of the third period, 11 seconds after Ryan Suter was called for the first of two third-period penalties. The first made 2-2 at 12:29 of the second period as the Blue Jackets came from behind for the second time.
The Predators built leads of 1-0 and 2-1 on power play goals by Colin Wilson and Mike Fisher in the first and second period, respectively. It was the first time they converted more than once with the man advantage since Oct. 8 at St. Louis, the second game of the season.
“Both teams’ power plays got a couple of goals and pretty much kept it even until they got the overtime goal,” Nashville captain Shea Weber (two assists) said. “… It was a close game but I guess you could call it a special teams war anyway.”
The fighting was anything but analogous at the start.
Tootoo and Dorsett had barely settled into the penalty box following their set-to when Brian McGrattan and Jared Boll went at it. In the first, Tootoo and Dorsett each had their moments. In the second, McGratten clearly got the better of things.
“I actually thought it wasn’t that chippy after that,” Trotz said. “It actually settled things down. [Oddly], it just settled things down, but those were two good bouts, that’s for sure. … I don’t know whose idea it was, but they were pumped up and we were pumped up too, So that’s what happens.”
Dorsett did try to fight again early in the second when he went after Nashville defenseman Jack Hillen. The officials stepped in just as the gloves came off, though, and both players were assessed minors for roughing with a 10-minute misconduct added to Dorsett’s punishment.
“We always know when we come into this building it’s going to be a battle, and for the most part we haven’t come out on the top side,” Columbus captain Rick Nash (two assists) said. “Those guys set the tone early with two great fights that got the boys going on the bench.”
• Nashville center David Legwand returned to the lineup after having missed the previous four games with an injury. He had an assist on Nashville’s first goal and played 18:28, 40 seconds off his average ice time prior to the injury.
Blake Geoffrion, who had played in every game thus far, was a healthy scratch.
• Columbus goalie Curtis Sanford, in his first year with the Blue Jackets, made 27 saves and improved to 4-0-0 all-time at Bridgestone Arena. He previously played for St. Louis and Vancouver.
“There really is no secret,” he said. “I just try to take it one game at a time. I know it’s a cliché, but I don’t try to look too far ahead.”