COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Calle Jarnkrok scored in the first and third periods, Pekka Rinne made 21 saves and the Nashville Predators beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-2 on Saturday night to split a two-game series.
The Predators broke a 2-2 tie with two goals in the first 45 seconds of the third period. Jarnkrok beat Elvis Merzlikins from the slot 16 seconds in, and Filip Forsberg followed with his team-leading eighth goal, taking it to the net through two defenders after a faceoff.
Colton Sissons also scored for Nashville, which won for just the second time in the last seven games.
“I think it was probably our best game of the season, if you look at three periods,” Jarnkrok said, “I think we had a little dip there in the second, but other than that we played great. I feel like we played hockey again, so it was nice.”
Gabriel Carlsson got his first NHL goal, Boone Jenner also scored and Merzlikins had 35 saves for the Blue Jackets before leaving the game after falling hard early in the third period. He was replaced by Joonas Korpisalo, who stopped all six shots he faced over the last 17-plus minutes.
Jarnkrok scored the first one for Nashville with eight seconds left in a power play, driving a rebounded puck past Merzlikins in traffic with 7:02 left in the first period. Luke Kunin’s excellent pass from the corner set up the doorstep finish for Sissons, giving the Predators a 2-0 lead at the first break.
Columbus couldn’t record a shot on goal for the last 15 minutes of the first period, and didn’t get another one until Jenner connected for a short-handed goal at 3:46 of the second. Less than two minutes later, Carlsson’s first NHL goal — a backdoor tap-in off an Oliver Bjorkstrand feed — tied the score.
Nashville got the two quick third-period goals and Rinne held off the Blue Jackets, who were outshot 45-23 in the game.
“Once we were able to get to the offensive zone, we were able to hem them in,” Forsberg said. “Obviously, they get two goals in the second, but it didn’t really change our game at all. I think we played the same way through 60 minutes and got rewarded with a big win.”
ELVIS KEEPS IT CLOSE
After shutting out the Predators 3-0 on Thursday, Merzlikins made some great stops Saturday and kept the game within reach amid multiple defensive lapses by the Blue Jackets and a season-high number of shots by Nashville.
“If it wasn’t for Elvis, this could have been real, real ugly,” defenseman Seth Jones said.
There was no postgame word on the condition of Merzlikins, who skated off favoring his left shoulder after the third-period fall. He spent time on injured reserve recently with an unspecified upper-body injury.
The Blue Jackets haven’t won or lost any more than two games in a row this season. “Right now, concentration, or their lack of it, is a big problem with this club,” coach John Tortorella said. “(A) major concern 19 games in.”
“Just an unacceptable performance,” defenseman Michael Del Zotto said. “A lot of mental mistakes. The concentration and consistency of it is frustrating.”
Predators: Coach John Hynes said injured forwards Ryan Johansen and Brad Richardson could return as early as Tuesday. Johansen has missed seven straight games, and Richardson has been out for nine. … Rinne has beaten the Blue Jackets more than any other NHL goalie.
Blue Jackets: D David Savard missed a game for the first time this season thanks to a non-COVID illness. Carlsson replaced him in the lineup, making his season debut. The Blue Jackets failed to score the opening goal for the first time in eight games. … Captain Nick Foligno went from the box to the locker room for treatment after a second-period fight with Nashville’s Mark Borowiecki, but returned to serve the remainder of his penalty.
Nashville opens a two-game series in Detroit on Tuesday.
Columbus hosts Chicago on Tuesday and Thursday.
Follow Mitch Stacy at http://twitter.com/mitchstacy
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