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Published September 12, 2015
While the Blue Jackets remain wildly inconsistent, the Predators are rounding into form at the quarter mark of the season.
Rookie goalie Marek Mazanec made 19 saves for his second shutout, and Matt Cullen and Nick Spaling each had a goal and an assist as streaking Nashville beat Columbus 4-0 on Wednesday night.
Nashville coach Barry Trotz likes his team's recent level of commitment and attention to detail.
"It was a pretty easy night for him," Trotz said, referring to Mazanec. "It was sort of a team win. You need to make a couple of saves when needed and he did."
Mike Fisher and David Legwand also scored for Nashville, which has found its groove on the heels of a four-game losing streak. Mazanec, filling in while Pekka Rinne recovers from a hip injury, earned his fifth win — all in the last six games.
"He was very steady out there," Ryan Ellis said. "I think our team overall played very strongly."
The Predators improved to 11-1-2 when scoring first and 9-0-1 when leading after the opening period.
Columbus was back home after a 3-2 trip through Canada. The Blue Jackets had hoped to build on the momentum of a 6-0 victory Monday against Toronto, but instead they have alternated wins and losses for six games and still find themselves searching for the type of balanced, hard-nosed play from late last season that nearly propelled them into the playoffs.
"Some of it is leadership, youth," coach Todd Richards said. "There are lots of things that add to it. It's tough to just point and say this is the reason for the inconsistency."
The switch to the Eastern Conference this season didn't change Columbus' fortunes against its former Central Divisional rival. Except for last season, the Predators have mostly dominated the series, and they again controlled the play in this one.
"It looked like we lacked some energy, another step," Richards said. "That's not an excuse. You've got to find a way."
Poor defense was a culprit for Columbus, while Nashville pressed the entire game.
"I thought we started off really well," Trotz said. "We stayed to the game plan. We managed the puck, played smart, played fast early."
Cullen made it 1-0 with his fifth goal at 9:58 of the first from the edge of the right circle, scoring on a slick pass from Ellis.
"To fake the shot and hit me through the seam, not a lot of D-men will make that play," Cullen said.
The Blue Jackets were outshot 14-4 in the period, with their best chance coming off Matt Calvert's stick in tight. Mazanec turned it aside.
On a power play that carried into the second period, Fisher beat two Blue Jackets players to a bouncing puck in the slot and smacked it past Sergei Bobrovsky for his fifth goal 54 seconds in. It was Nashville's first shot of the period.
Later in the period, the Predators won battles behind the net and one for a puck in the slot. This time it was Legwand scoring his fifth to make it 3-0.
"We just didn't have the energy level," Columbus' James Wisniewski said. "I think we worked. We just didn't have that little extra gear to win that little extra battle."
The home crowd later booed the Blue Jackets on a lackluster power play.
Spaling scored his fourth goal from the hash marks on a nice feed from Cullen at 2:02 of the third.
"Cullen's got a great head for the game and creates a lot of offense," Spaling said.
NOTES: Mazanec, who entered with a 1.61 goals-against average in the previous five games, has allowed two goals or fewer in the last six games. ... Columbus was shut out for the second time in its past five games. ... The Blue Jackets finished 0 for 2 with the man advantage. The Predators have not allowed a power-play goal in six games, killing off 16 straight chances dating to Nov. 15. ... Nashville hosts the Oilers on Thanksgiving. Edmonton then visits Columbus on Friday.