The Blue Jackets failed to play a complete game once again, and the Nashville Predators made them pay. However, the real story may be head coach Scott Arniel's post game comments, which are likely to bring him into conflict with the NHL
The answer was revealed against Nashville when a dramatic collapse sent what appeared to be an impressively confident victory into a surprising tie, and finally a frustrating loss in overtime.
The Blue Jackets opened the game with a clear gameplan, limiting the Predators opportunities, playing a distinctly physical style. The Blue Jackets' top line of Rick Nash, Vinny Prospal, and Jeff Carter opened the scoring midway through the period, but it took several more minutes before anyone realized it.
Pekka Rinne appeared to have made an elbow save when Carter took a pass behind the net from Prospal and fired a fast shot from the side of the net. Video review at the next stoppage in play, however, revealed that the shot had actually slipped past the Finnish netminder's arm, struck the back of the net, then flew out the other side before anyone realized it had crossed the goal line.
Francis Boullion attempted to fire up his team in the absence of regular agitator Jordin Tootoo, challenging Derek Dorsett to a battle late in the first period, but the fiery checking forward hammered the Nashville defenseman with a flurry of blows before Boullion succumbed to the assault.
After holding Nashville to just four shots on Sanford after 20 minutes, Columbus extended their lead in the second period thanks to sustained pressure finally paying off. Jared Boll fired a shot on net that Rinne attempted to kick away, but Antoine Vermette would find the rebound and backhand it over the diving goaltender for a 2-0 lead.
The Predators finally found an opportunity to apply pressure of their own several minutes later, when Sergei Kostitsyn began a flurry of shots that challenged Curtis Sanford, forcing the netminder to make several acrobatic saves on Kostitsyn, Francis Boullion, and Mike Fisher before he lost his goalie stick as he attempted to lunge across his crease to stop a shot. The loose puck came back to Fisher, and Mr. Carrie Underwood buried the rebound to put his team on the board.
The Blue Jackets seemed to gather themselves after the second intermission and took control of the game once again early in the third period. Dorsett factored into the game once again, but this time using his stick rather than his fists. Moving the puck out of his own zone, Dorsett passed off to Marc Methot, then took a return pass before splitting the Nashville D and charging through the neutral zone on a breakaway against Rinne. Waiting for Rinne to open up the bottom of the net, Dorsett fired in full flight for the 3-1 lead.
For 16 more minutes, the Blue Jackets seemed in full control, even taking their first power play of the game with just over four minutes left in regulation, but could not extend their lead. With less than two minutes to go, Barry Trotz called Rinne to the bench for an extra attacker after a blocked shot went into the netting to give Nashville a faceoff in the Columbus zone.
Mike Fisher won the draw and shoveled the puck back to Ryan Suter, who set up Predators Captain Shea Weber for a clean shot at the net. Curtis Sanford made the initial save but give up a bad rebound to Patrick Hornqvist, and the Swedish Winger whacked at the puck until he was able to force it through Sanford's legs to cut the lead to one.
The Jackets attempted to regain their composure, but took a crippling penalty when Samuel Pahlsson was called for a crosscheck on Weber with just over a minute to go. For 40 seconds, the Blue Jackets were able to control the puck, but once again their PK failed at the worst possible time. With 19 seconds left, the Predators won a faceoff to the right of Sanford and set up their lethal defensive unit. Ryan Suter took the puck back to the middle of the blue line, then dish back to Martin Erat at the half boards. Erat fired a shot in on Sanford, and once again a juicy rebound was be there for the taking. Sergei Kostitsyn collect the puck this time and flipped it past Sanford with 13 seconds left in regulation, tying the game and sending it into overtime.
The Blue Jackets looked to have a chance to end the game when Antoine Vermette and Vinny Prospal attacked on an odd man rush, but Rinne was able to make a game-winning save. Martin Erat found the loose puck and charge up ice with Colin Wilson on an odd man rush of their own, taking the puck to the faceoff circles before threading a pass around Columbus d-man Nikita Nikitin, and Wilson buried the puck, beating Sanford high on the stick side.
For the Predators, it was a show of incredible resiliency and a worthy entry in the slowly growing rivalry between these two Central division teams. But Columbus head coach Scott Arniel was far less charitable in his post game press conference after yet another late game collapse from his club, targeting both the failures of his own players and what he felt was an unnecessary impact on the game from the referees.
"A s----y make up call, then we couldn't win any draws in our end of the rink in the last two minutes. It's happened again and again. You'd think we'd learn from it, but we knew that we'd probably see a makeup call coming after we finally got a call late in the game."
The comments were unsurprisingly strong for a coach dealing with such a frustrating situation, but it will be interesting to see if the NHL will impose fines or sanctions on coach Arniel for his criticism.