With nothing playoff-related to play for, the Nashville Predators wanted to end the regular season on a high note.
They did that with a 4-2 victory over visiting Columbus on Saturday at Bridgestone Arena, now awaiting the beginning of the Stanley Cup Playoffs next week.
Columbus (45-30-7, 97 points) still had plenty to play for, as the Blue Jackets’ positioning was not solidified prior to puck drop.
The Blue Jackets were attempting to do it without some of their top players, as Seth Jones, Artemi Panarin, Cam Atkinson, Alexander Wennberg, Ryan Murray and Zach Werenski all sat out Saturday’s contest, along with Sergei Bobrovsky.
Austin Watson started the scoring for the Predators (53-18-11, 117 points) eight minutes in with a top-shelf snipe off a feed from Mike Fisher. Both teams had seen chances at each end, but a neutral-zone turnover to Fisher led to the counterattack and Watson’s shot that beat Joonas Korpisalo high on the blocker side.
A power play goal from Filip Forsberg extended the lead with 8:56 left in the first. Scott Hartnell made the key feed from below the end line to Forsberg, who cruised in from the slot for the finish.
Forsberg beat the buzzer to end the first period on a sharp shot from the right circle, again above Korpisalo’s blocker.
Josh Anderson beat Pekka Rinne to put Columbus on the board with 12:05 remaining in the second, taking advantage of a neutral zone turnover to get a partial breakaway.
Brandon Dubinsky pulled the Blue Jackets within one with 12:40 to play, scoring shorthanded.
Forsberg completed the hat trick with an empty netter with :39.4 to go — the Preds’ first hat trick of the season.
Now, it’s on to the playoffs.
- No Tolvanen in warmups, no Arvidsson either, which means he’ll be a 29-goal scorer, Jared.
- Columbus is waiting for the Presidents’ Trophy presentation to conclude before coming out to the bench. They wanted no part of it.
- Josi touched the Presidents’ Trophy. Perhaps he learned from last year?
- Korpisalo with a couple of strong early saves, and chances coming at both ends so far.
- It’s true, Austin Watson scores more than shorthanded goals. What a freaking snipe.
- In a game like this, you especially don’t want any type of hit that puts players in danger, like the one Ian Cole delivered to Colton Sissons.
- First power-play unit winger Scott Hartnell. One night only. And an assist on said power play. Okay, then. Moving on...
- That was a hard hit by Emelin, but don’t think it was worth a roughing call.
- The power play unit looks good so far. Good puck movement in addition to good movement away from the puck. It looks crisper, but no, I’m not crediting Hartnell for that.
- Damn, Fil.
- Haven’t seen a good hip check in a while. Subban delivers.
- Neutral zone turnover led to the Columbus goal.
- Would really like to see a bit more in the second period. Too much time in front of Rinne in the middle frame.
- Good move getting Rinne out for the third period. Let ‘em both get work. This is, after all, pretty much a glorified preseason game.
- No Predator had netted a hat trick in the first 81 games. That changed in Game 82 with Forsberg’s visor trick.
The #HumboldtStrong Three Stars of the Game
- Forsberg. He’s ready for the playoffs.
- Rinne. He’s definitely ready.
- Watson. Noted goal scorer strikes again.
Josi on touching the Presidents’ Trophy:
“Yeah, it was decided that if we got the trophy, we were going to touch it. We didn’t touch (the Clarence Campbell Trophy for winning the Western Conference) last year. We decided to accept the trophy.”
On getting ready for the postseason to begin:
“I think everybody’s really excited for the playoffs, but we know how hard it is in the playoffs. But the excitement’s definitely here. We can’t wait for the first game.”
On Forsberg’s recent tear:
“It’s great. He’s such a great player and when he scores for us, it’s huge. He’s such a big piece on this team and he’s been playing really good.”
On the power play’s success in the past few games heading into the playoffs:
“Special teams is always real important, PK, power play. Games are so tight and the special teams normally decide games, so it’s good for us that after a stretch of not playing that well on the power play that we get it going the last couple of games and it’s going to help us in the playoffs.”
Laviolette on Forsberg’s finish to the regular season:
“He had a great game tonight. He’s such a strong player, he’s a power forward that has a lot of skill. When he attacks the ice the way he is right now, he becomes very difficult to defend.”
On the power play during the past few games:
“The good thing is, just from a practice standpoint, we haven’t practiced much — just from the end of last year to the travel and demands of this year and the possibility of what might come as far as the schedule comes or an extended schedule. We’ve really tried to manage the time for our guys and that’s cut down on practices. We try to hit (special teams) a lot in training camp, but when the practices stop coming and you’re just relying on the games, you don’t really get an opportunity to work on stuff. The next couple of times we get on the ice, we’re going to have an opportunity to jump out there and work on some power play.”
On playing a familiar opponent in the first round:
“That’s the West, I guess even more to the point, that’s our division. Everybody knows everybody, there’s no surprises and no secrets. They know the same about us, so everybody’s in the same boat, I think.”
On whether there should be any doubt Rinne should win the Vezina Trophy:
“There shouldn’t be any. He has just had an amazing year ... I know it’s not a body of work, but that has to factor in at some point, right? His body of work as a starting goalie for this franchise and the success he’s brought ... He’s got a high number of wins, his winning percentage is number one, his save percentage is number one, his goals against average is number one, we’re the first-place team in the National Hockey League and he’s the MVP of our team. I don’t think that there should be any question about it.”
Tweets of the Night
Meaningless game, so why not let text autofill take the reins tonight.— On The Forecheck (@OnTheForecheck) April 8, 2018
Predators game and the puck was on point. Yeah that’s true but it’s just not really embarrassing. Ok that’s what you gotta think about.
Drunken line roulette.— Rachel K (@_RKH80) April 7, 2018
How quickly will First Line Scott Hartnell take a penalty— Marya (@_marya_k) April 8, 2018
Where is Mark Letestu's tribute video?— Adam Vingan (@AdamVingan) April 8, 2018