COLUMBUS, OH - JANUARY 19: Craig Smith #15 of the Nashville Predators takes a shot on goalie Steve Mason #1 of the Columbus Blue Jackets during their game at Nationwide Arena on January 19, 2012 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images)
The Blue Jackets had yet to be shut out this season, but Pekka Rinne and the Nashville Predators were happy to remind them that all good things come to an end.
One of the few bright spots in a season of misery for the fans of the Columbus Blue Jackets was that their team had not been shut out - the last team, in fact, in the NHL to stave off a scoreless game.
After four close games matchups between Columbus and Nashville (two of them requiring overtime), the Central Division rivals seemed primed for a similar contest - particularly with Ryan Suter absent for the visiting club.
With Pekka Rinne leading the surging Predators, new head coach Todd Richards made the decision to give Steve Mason an opportunity to get off the bench for the first time since the young goaltender was pulled in the final loss for Scott Arniel.
The rival teams went scoreless in the first period, but a turnover in the second period by Fedor Tyutin would help the Predators jump out to an early lead. The Russian defenseman made a perfect drop pass to opposing forward Martin Erat, and the Czech winger raced up ice along with Sergei Kostitsyn. A pass back and forth between the two helped them get around the Columbus defense, and Erat tucked the puck past Mason for the eventual game winning goal.
Columbus attempted to counterattack, but agitator Derek Dorsett took a questionable goalie interference penalty after being shoved into Rinne by Craig Smith. The Predators' power play struck on a clean pass across the penalty killers by Erat, and Mike Fisher was able to tap the puck home to put the Predators up by two.
Columbus attempted to find an answer for Rinne, mustering 25 shots in the final 30 minutes of play, but could not finish their chances, even when gifted with a late power play in the final 1:30 of regulation, while Shea Weber would put a bow on the game by firing the puck down the length of the ice and into the empty net for a 3-0 victory, pushing the Predators into striking distance of the league leading Chicago Blackhawks.