COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP)—Even backup goalies look great against the Columbus Blue Jackets these days.
“We didn’t show up to play for a period and a half and it cost us the hockey game,” Blue Jackets coach Gerard Gallant said. “We played a great third period, but it’s just one period—we can’t do it for 60 minutes. That’s been our problem all season long.”
“We had a couple of big saves from Chris Mason in the third,” Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. “We had bang-bang goals in the second period and Hartnell came up with the big goal at the end. It was a key goal for us. They sort of had us on our heels, they were coming hard, but we were able to get the big goal tonight when we needed it.”
Mason, starting while Tomas Vokoun got a night off, improved to 2-0-1 this year.
“We wanted this one going home,” Mason said after the Predators ended a two-game road trip. “We played them well.”
It was another discouraging defeat for the Blue Jackets, who have lost 10 of 11. Fans have become increasingly disenchanted with Columbus president and general manager Doug MacLean, whose team has the worst record in the NHL (5-17) and the fewest goals in the league (40) by far.
Midway through the third period, a fan on the glass held up a sign that read, “Trade MacLean.”
“I’m not going to make excuses,” Blue Jackets center Dan Fritsche said. “The way we played, I think we at least deserved a point out of this.”
Marek Zidlicky’s long pass from the defensive zone all the way to Stevenson near the far blue line led to the first goal. Stevenson took the pass, skated down the right wing while defenseman Duvie Westcott struggled to catch up, and beat goalie Pascal Leclaire high on the stick side at 15:01 of the opening period.
A Predators power play ended 5 seconds before Stevenson’s third goal of the year.
Columbus tied it 25 seconds into the second period with a flurry that began with Zherdev’s centering pass from the back boards. David Vyborny was stopped by Mason but the puck bounced out to Sergei Fedorov, with Mason using his stick to deflect Fedorov’s shot. The puck ricocheted to Zherdev in the left circle and he had almost an empty net for his fourth goal.
Less than 3 minutes later, the Predators took the lead for good with the first of two goals in 47 seconds.
Hamhuis was posted just right of the net and hammered a pinpoint cross-crease pass from Steve Sullivan for his second goal.
That goal had barely been announced when Columbus’ Ben Simon and Luke Richardson mishandled the puck in the defensive end, leading to Legwand’s third goal off assists from Martin Erat and Scottie Upshall.
The Blue Jackets cut the lead to 3-2 at 11:03 of the third when Malhotra scored on a rebound of Gilbert Brule’s one-timer from the point. Malhotra did not have a goal in his first 21 games this year and had not scored in his last 52 games.
Hartnell scored with 1:22 left, swooping in on a break and connecting on his third shot after Leclaire stopped the first two.
“I was just coming through the defense and I had a breakaway,” Hartnell said. “One shot, two shots, three shots and it went off Leclaire and in.”
Columbus D Adam Foote strained his groin in the first period and did not return. … Nashville lost the previous three meetings, the past two in overtime. … Nashville’s Kimmo Timonen’s five-game points streak ended. … Leclaire had a career-high 37 saves.