That sentiment, along with a few others, can only begin to capture what happened in the Bridgestone Arena as the Nashville Predators faced the Columbus Blue Jackets in a Central Division tilt. The Predators won the game 6-5 in spite of making it extremely difficult on themselves.
Heck, they didn’t make it difficult on themselves. They nearly gave away the game.
Don’t believe me?
The Predators gave up 4 power play goals, three in the first period on a 5 minute penalty kill after absorbing a major penalty to fall into a 4-1 hole after twenty minutes.
I will get to that in just a moment.
Pekka Rinne got the start for the Predators, while Curtis Sanford was in net for the Blue Jackets.
These two teams typically play a tight checking game, with most contests decided by a goal. This game started no differently, with each team probing the others defense and looking for an opportunity to score.
That first opportunity would belong to the Predators, as Mike Fisher was left alone at the side of the net and had an easy tap in of a rebound of a Sergei Kostitsyn shot at 12:29 of the period. This goal was a result of the Predators playing their type of hockey- shooting the puck and crashing the net. Simple hockey, effective hockey.
Predator fans had hardly settled back into their seats when the BJ’s tied the game on a shot from Jeff Carter. Carter beat David Legwand on a drive to the net and launched a wrist shot from just inside the face off circle that beat Rinne over his shoulder at 12:56 of the first period.
The first “Wow” moment came at 14:26 of the first period as Brian McGratten boarded Derick Brassard as Brassard was going off on a line change. McGratten was given a 5 minute major for interference and a game misconduct. While the penalty can be debated as to the severity, the fact is that this was a boneheaded and selfish play by McGratten, who skated across the rink to deliver the hit. It is the type of hit that the League looks at closely and one which the officials have been quick to call. It was a totally unnecessary hit.
And it would cost the Predators.
Columbus would tally 3 times during the major to take a 4-1 lead. Jeff Carter got 2 goals to give him a first period hat trick, with his goals coming at 14:35 and 16:14. Sandwiched between those two goals was a gaol by Ryan Johansen at 15:30.
Yes, it was a major penalty, but the Predators penalty killers were manhandled by the Jackets forwards. Columbus peppered the Predators net and crashed hard to gather in rebounds and tally goals. Pucks were bouncing off legs of the defenders and the Predators could not clear the front of the net, and they were burned by the Jackets because of their ineffectiveness.
Down 4-1 at the end of the first period, the Predators were going to have to play Predator hockey and chip away at the Jackets lead in the second period.
Patrick Hornqvist would make it 4-2 with a tap in of a rebound of a shot from Shea Weber at 5:28. Once again, the Predators benefited from shooting the puck and going to the net.
The Jackets would again extend their lead to 3 goals on the power play. Ryan Johansen took a shot that hit Ryan Suter’s leg and skidded by Rinne for the Jackets 4th power play goal to make it 5-2 at 7:52 of the second period.
The Predators did not deviate from their style of play, as they kept shooting the puck and going hard to the net. Nick Spaling was the next Predator to score at 8:53 of the second period. Spaling was working hard in the low slot and gathered in a rebound of a Colin Wilson shot and shoveled the puck past Sanford to make it 5-3 Columbus.
The Predators made it 5-4 at 13:41 of the second as Roman Josi took a pass from Francis Buillon and wired a shot over the shoulder of Sanford with Mike Fisher screening in front. Josi is rounding into a very solid defenseman who handles the puck well and has a good shot. Each game, he appears to be playing with more confidence.
The Predators caught a break in the second as Mark Letestu got free in the low slot and beat Rinne with a shot that hit the post and bounced out.
Going into the third period and trailing by one, I felt that if the Predators could tie the game, they would win it.
The Predators did just that at 16:14 of the period as David Legwand corralled a rebound of a Colin Wilson shot and banged home the tying goal. With that score, one could sense the fragile Jackets were on the verge of breaking, and with the partisan crowd roaring, the Predators were looking for one more improbable win over the BJ’s.
Improbable? How about absolutely amazing?
The Predators were not done with their “wow” moments just yet.
Ryan Suter found Marty Erat streaking through the middle of the ice and hit him with a pass on his tape. Erat split the defense of the Jackets and fought off a hook to break in on Sanford. Erat made a nice forehand backhand move to open Sanford up and slid the puck five hole with 8.4 seconds to go to give the Predators a 6-5 lead.
As the horn sounded, a Blue Jacket player summed up their night by shattering his stick at the bench, just like their hopes for a victory were shattered by a gritty and never say die group of Predators.
Make no mistake, this win feels good. But as good as it feels, the Predators should have never been in that position. Frankly, the Predators kept Columbus in the game with the stupid major penalty and the resulting ineffectiveness of their penalty kill. Against a team that is not as fragile as the Jackets, the result would probably not have turned out as good as it did for the Predators.
Strong play tonight from Mike Fisher and Colin Wilson. Both of these players are skating hard and doing the little things that lead to big plays. this type of effort was instrumental in turning around this contest.
What this contest should point out to this team is that you are never out of it. Play your game- shoot the puck and go hard to the net- and good things happen. When this team was down early, rather than quit, they fought back and fought back hard.
That is character.
That is Predator hockey.
My three stars:
1. Marty Erat
2. David Legwand
3. Jeff Carter
About the Author: A native Nashvillian that grew up with minor league hockey, I'm now a devoted Predators fan and NHL follower. I have had the privilege of allowing my children to grow up watching the Predators and seeing the joy on their face when they are at a game. By day, I am a partner in an independent investment management company in the Nashville area. I played collegiate football and graduated from the University of South Carolina and graduated from the LSU graduate School of Banking. So yes, there are real true southern hockey fans in these non-traditional markets.