NASHVILLE, Tenn. – John Tortorella’s postgame press conference lasted only 18 seconds, but it summed up the Nashville Predators’ 5-1 win over Columbus on Saturday night.
“Totally overwhelmed,” said Tortorella, the Columbus coach. “That’s all you need. … We were overwhelmed from the start of the game to the end so you guys can go with your stories from there.”
Nashville set the tone early, taking 21 of the first 23 shots.
Columbus tied the score 1-1 in the first period before Nashville rattled off four unanswered goals.
“We were ready to start tonight, every line was,” said Predators center Ryan Johansen, who faced his former team for the first time since being traded for Seth Jones on Jan. 6. “Huge credit to the guys on this team tonight. We didn’t give them a sniff at all, Usually, there’s momentum swings, but for the most part we handled them really well.”
James Neal scored his 30th goal of the season and had an assist. Filip Forsberg has also reached the 30-goal milestone, marking the second time in team history two Predators have reached 30 in the same season.
Steve Sullivan and Paul Kariya both scored 31 in 2005-06.
“It was nice to see that one go in (against) a team like Columbus that’s kind of playing spoiler right now,” Neal said. “We need all the points we can get. We’re fighting for a playoff spot so that’s a big game for us.”
Mattias Ekholm, Craig Smith, Shea Weber and Calle Jarnkrok also scored for Nashville, which improved to 14-2-5 since Feb. 12 — the NHL’s best record in that stretch.
The Predators (39-23-13) hold the Western Conference’s first wild-card spot and tied Chicago for third place in the Central Division with 91 points with the Blackhawks’ game against Calgary still in progress at press time.
Nashville can clinch a playoff spot with a regulation win over Colorado on Monday night.
Boone Jenner scored the only goal for Columbus (30-37-8), which was outshot 48-19.
Pekka Rinne (32-19-10) made 18 saves to earn the win.
Joonas Korpisalo (14-10-4) allowed five goals as he took the loss for Columbus, which has lost six of its last eight.
Predators defenseman Roman Josi made three assists, giving him 43 for the season. That sets a new franchise record for defensemen, breaking Kimmo Timonen’s old record of 41 set in 2006-07.
“It’s easy for me, I just pass it over to Webs and he pounds it in,” Josi kidded. “No, obviously you try to help your team and my game – I try to make something happen in the offensive zone, too.”
The Blue Jackets were eliminated from the playoffs after Thursday’s 3-2 loss to Carolina.
Nashville took a 1-0 lead when Neal’s wrist shot from the right faceoff circle beat Korpisalo high blocker side at 3:04 of the first period.
The Predators took 21 of the game’s first 23 shots, but the Blue Jackets tied it 1-1 on Jenner’s backhander at 11:52 of the first period.
Rinne made a pad save on Brandon Saad’s initial shot, but the puck bounced to his right in the crease and Jenner poked it home for his team-leading 28th goal.
Nashville took a 2-1 lead nearly six minutes later when Ekholm’s shot from the low slot bounced off defenseman Dalton Sprout’s skate and into the net.
The Predators outshot the Blue Jackets 27-10 in the first period, setting a franchise record for most shots in a period.
“I thought in the first 10 minutes we were real straight with the game, real north with it, fast,” Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. “We put things down in the offensive zone well. We were able to keep the puck there for some extended time.”
Smith increased Nashville’s lead to 3-1 when he sent a rebound into an open net from the low slot at 6:11 of the second period for his 19th goal of the season.
Weber built the lead to 4-1 on the power play when he blasted a one-timer from the top of the right faceoff circle past Korpisalo at 14:14 of the second period for his 18th goal of the season.
Playmaker Mike Ribeiro set up the captain with a cross-ice pass for his 42nd assist of the season.
Weber moved ahead of Martin Erat into sole possession of second place in franchise history with 164 career goals.
Nashville’s defensemen have 186 goals, most in the NHL.
Jarnkrok increased the Predators’ lead to 5-1 when he tipped a pass from Josi into an open net 23 seconds into the third period.
The crowd at Bridgestone Arena gave former Predator Jones a standing ovation during a video tribute with 8:57 left in the first period.
“They came out hard,” Jones said. “Anytime you get 30 shots against a team in the first period. … I thought we got outcompeted tonight and they just played a good game.”
NOTES: Columbus D Seth Jones played his first game in Nashville since being traded for C Ryan Johansen on Jan. 6. Jones is averaging nearly five minutes more in ice time than before the trade and led the Blue Jackets in average ice time with a 24:27 clip entering the game. Johansen had seven goals and 19 assists in his first 35 games with Nashville, playing on the first line. Both players were fourth overall draft picks. … D Dean Kukan made his NHL debut, becoming the first Swiss player to play for Columbus. … Nashville improved to 7-0-3 in its last 10 home games. … Predators G Pekka Rinne is 12-1-2 in his last 15 games.