In a lot of ways, the final meeting of the season between the Nashville Predators and Columbus Blue Jackets was atypical.
In stark contrast to some recent encounters, there was no real drama. Unlike many of the matchups throughout history, there were no fights — not even close.
“I think both teams are playing right now,” Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. “… It hasn’t been as irritable, if you will. Trust me, though, the verbal barbs are probably more than they were before. The physical barbs aren’t quit there.”
In terms of the final score, though, it was business as usual. The Predators defeated the Blue Jackets 4-1 before 14,310 at Bridgestone Arena on Monday night and maintained their long-established position of dominance over their Central Division and recent expansion rivals.
Mike Fisher scored twice (once each in the first and second periods) and Matt Halsichuk and Patric Hornqvist added third-period goals as Nashville never trailed.
“They’re a good team,” Columbus coach Todd Richards said. “They play a certain way and they make you work. They make you earn everything.”
The first four of this season’s series all were decided by a single goal, two in overtime. The last of those was Dec. 22, the last time Columbus came to town, and in that one the Predators overcame a three-goal, second-period deficit and ultimately won 6-5.
Nashville won the last two — both in the last five days — by a much more comfortable three-goal margin, although it was not always as easy as the final score might suggest in this one.
“The first period, we came out really good and played really well,” Hornqvist said. “The second, they took over the whole game. We battled hard but we turned it over too many times but they took the momentum.”
Columbus recorded 16 of its 26 shots as well as its only goal (Rick Nash tied it 1-1) in the second period.
Order was restored when Fisher scored on the power play with 28.8 seconds to go before the second intermission, and the teams combined for just 12 shots in the third.
“We really got it going again in the third,” Hornqvist said. “When Halischuk got that goal, that was it. We were playing really good. No turnovers. Getting it deep all the time.
“It was a good game from everyone. It was a big team win and a big two points.”
Nashville earned 11 out of a possible 12 points in this season’s head-to-head contests and improved to 31-5-3 since the start of 2006-07 against Columbus. The home team won for the 21st time out of the last 27 overall but the Blue Jackets fell for the 30th time in 35 all-time trips to Nashville.
“Knowing the facts, mentally it’s draining on [them],” Jordin Tootoo said. “But they’re a team that brings it night in and night out.”
Some things just never — or almost never — change, like who wins when the Predators play the Blue Jackets.
• Defenseman Ryan Suter returned the Predators’ lineup after having missed the previous three games with an upper body injury. In just over 23 minutes of ice time he had two assists (both on the power play) and three blocked shots.
“He managed the game,” Trotz said. “He was being fairly efficient. He just makes it look so easy.”
• Halischuk was the only Nashville player who appeared in each of the first 47 games. He was a healthy scratch Saturday against Chicago because Trotz wanted to look at recently acquired Brandon Yip and felt Halischuk’s spot was the best place to do so.
With his goal in this one, Halischuk made it so Trotz will think twice before pulling him again.
“That was a great response by him,” Trotz said. “He’s making the statement: ‘Don’t pick me coach,’ kind of thing, and that’s great. That’s what you want.”
• During a stoppage in play with 9:18 to go in the first period, the Predators honored the Nashville Jr. Predators Mighty Mite Major team, which recently won the A/E” Novice/Mite division at the prestigious Silver Stick Finals held in Pelham, Ontario
The team of 7-8-year-olds outscored their opponents by a combined 63-7 on their way to the title at one of only two tournaments recognized by the Hockey Hall of Fame (the other is the Stanley Cup playoffs). A plaque containing the names of all Silver Stick winners is displayed at the Hall throughout the next year.
“Winning their division at Silver Stick was a huge accomplishment, and opened a lot of eyes in the amateur hockey world,” Nashville Predators Director of Youth Hockey and Fan Development Andee Boiman said.