Saros stops 28 and Predators defeat Blue Jackets 3-1
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — After a slow start to the season, the Nashville Predators are now starting to get on a roll.
Nick Cousins, Eeli Tolvanen and Erik Haula scored and Juuse Saros made 28 saves to lead the Predators to a 3-1 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday.
Roman Josi had two assists for the Predators, who have won four of five.
“Our consistency has been a lot better, so we can definitely take some confidence from the last five games,” Josi said.
Kevin Stenlund scored and Joonas Korpisalo made 26 saves for the sliding Blue Jackets, who have lost five straight.
Stenlund started the scoring at 3:45 of the opening period.
Riley Nash had the puck in the low slot and drew three Predators to him before sending a pass to an unchecked Stenlund on the right side, where he fired a wrist shot high over Saros.
“Just a great heads-up play there,” Stenlund said of Nash’s assist. “He knew that I was there somewhere and made that play.”
Cousins tied it at 1 at 7:05 of the first.
Ryan Johansen intercepted a clearing attempt by Boone Jenner at the blue line and found Viktor Arvidsson just above the goal line on the left side. Arvidsson’s slap pass in front found Cousins, who beat Korpisalo for his second goal of the season.
“Our offense, we haven’t scored that many goals, but we’re getting to the blue paint a lot more, we’re making it difficult on their goalie, and that’s where you score goals in this league is right around the net,” Cousins said.
Tolvanen made it 2-1 at 9:44 of the second.
With Nashville on a power play, Filip Forsberg sent a pass from the high slot to Tolvanen at the left faceoff dot. Tolvanen’s wrist shot hit the near post and deflected off Korpisalo’s left leg pad and in for his third goal of the season.
“That’s how you grow a young player,” Predators coach John Hynes said. “They get opportunities, they earn more. To his credit, he’s done the work and he’s the guy that has given us reasons to play him in the situations that he’s earning to play in.”
Tolvanen has two goals and an assist in his past four games.
“I feel like the first 5-10 games I played, I felt like when I got the puck and kind of throwing it away, trying to not do mistakes,” Tolvanen said. “Right now, I just try to make the right play. When you play with (Mikael Granlund) and (Forsberg), you have to be on your best if you want to play with those guys.”
After not taking a lead into the third period in their first 19 games of the season, the Predators did so Sunday for the second consecutive game.
Haula added a short-handed goal with 1:52 remaining.
After the game, Columbus coach John Tortorella was asked if he was concerned about his job security with his team mired in a losing streak. He said he wasn’t concerned. “I never worry about that,” he said. “I do my job the best I can. If people want to make decisions on me, that’s their decision. I never worry about that. I go about my business, and I’m going to coach this team the best way I possibly can.”
ENDING DRY SPELLS
Johansen and Arvidsson’s assists on Nashville’s first goal Sunday were the first points either had posted since Feb. 4. Arvidsson had not had a point in his past 10 games. Playing in his fourth game since returning from an upper-body injury that caused him to miss seven games, Johansen earned his first point since coming off injured reserve.
Sunday marked the final time Columbus is scheduled to play in Nashville this season, and that is likely a good thing. The Predators won all four matchups between the teams in Nashville. And this season isn’t an outlier. Columbus has struggled in Music City ever since the Blue Jackets entered the NHL as an expansion team in 2000, two years after the Predators made their debut, winning just nine of 49 games played in Nashville.
FAMILIAR GOALTENDING MATCHUP
Despite the back-to-back set, both teams elected to go with the same goaltenders that played in Saturday’s matinee matchup between the teams. Saros had not started consecutive games since Feb. 1 and 4.
Korpisalo made his fourth consecutive start and will likely continue to see a lot of action with Elvis Merzlikins on injured reserve because of an upper-body injury sustained Feb. 20 against Nashville.
The Predators host the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday. This game was originally scheduled to be played Jan. 19, but was postponed after several Hurricanes players were placed on the COVID-19 list that day.
The Blue Jackets host the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday.
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By JIM DIAMOND