Youth provide offense in Predators 3-2 win over Columbus
A couple of young players provided the offense in the Nashville Predators 3-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets to open the 2011-12 season at Nationwide Arena Friday night.
With five rookies in the lineup, only Craig Smith had never played a regular season NHL game before the contest. It took Smith 15:56 into the second period to score his first career goal.
“We were forechecking pretty good. We were creating turnovers. We were cycling pretty good. I found myself in front of the net. I saw the puck trickle through from the backside of Mason. I went out put my stick on it and put it home,” Smith said about his first career goal.
The goal gave the Predators a 2-1 lead. Nashville opened scoring 5:10 into the second period on a power play goal by Ryan Suter. Derek Dorsett was serving a penalty for closing his hand over the puck in the defensive zone during the dying seconds of a penalty kill.
Columbus tied the game at 14:19 of the middle frame on a goal by Vinny Prospal, but the Blue Jackets were unable to hang onto the lead as Smith scored less than two minutes later.
Predators Head Coach Barry Trotz said Smith improved as the game went on. “As a young guy, you want to score your first goal in the League so you feel like you belong here a bit. As the game went on he was much better. By the third period, he was using his assets and was playing much better,” Trotz said.
Matt Halischuk also found the scoresheet Friday night, but gave credit to his teammates. “Cal [O’Reilly] made a great play. I just tried to get to the front of the net. He put it right on my stick,” Halischuk said.
The forward took note of Smith’s goal but said it wouldn’t be the younger players leading the squad all season. “It is going to be different guys every night who score goals. Smith did a great job getting his first goal there on a real hard play. We score by committee and it is the way we need to keep going,” Halischuk said.
Trotz also gave credit to Halischuk’s line. Centered by O’Reilly, the Toronto, Ontario native also played with Jordin Tootoo. “They did a really good job. They scored a big goal at the start of the third period. They played a lot against [Jeff] Carter and [Rick] Nash towards the end of the game. That’s a tough job,” Trotz said.
Halischuk scored just 39 seconds into the third period. The Blue Jackets made it a close game when they pulled within one at 10:19 into the final frame on a goal by Nash.
Nashville now travels to St. Louis to play the second game in their first back-to-back games of the year Saturday night. Saturday night’s game will be the Blues season opener.
Photo credit: Getty Images
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