COLUMBUS, Ohio - With the game up for grabs, the Nashville Predators quickly put away the Columbus Blue Jackets — and any doubt — in the third period.
Craig Smith scored two goals, Pekka Rinne made 30 saves to earn his NHL-leading 22nd win, and the Predators routed the Blue Jackets 5-1 on Monday night.
After a scoreless first period, Nashville broke through against a suddenly loose Blue Jackets defence in the second and netted two goals 1:38 apart.
"The next goal, it's either 2-1 or 3-0," Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. "That's a huge swing for somebody in momentum. It's nice to get it and come right back and get another one right away."
Nashville scored three times in a 2:14 span of the final period to make it 5-0.
Colin Wilson had a goal and an assist, and Seth Jones and Mike Fisher also scored for well-balanced Nashville, which has won five of six. Victor Bartley added two assists.
"We kept elevating throughout the game," said Smith, who has 10 goals. "We put some great shots on net. I thought our D did a fantastic job making plays out of the defensive zone and giving us some time to move and make some plays."
Rookie Alexander Wennberg scored his first NHL goal late in the third period to spoil Rinne's shutout bid. Columbus had its nine-game point streak (8-0-1) snapped, losing for the first time in December.
"They stuck to their game," Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said. "I think we got away from our game a little, especially after the first two goals."
During Columbus' surge, with most of the games going beyond regulation, the Blue Jackets rode goalie Sergei Bobrovsky. He seemed to tire in the third period and was pulled after the fourth goal, finishing with 26 saves on 30 shots.
Wilson started the scoring when he outreached defenceman Fedor Tyutin for the puck and put it past Bobrovsky at 7:47 of the second for his seventh. Smith then converted during a 2-on-1, putting a feed from Mike Ribeiro into an open net following a Blue Jackets turnover in the neutral zone.
"We play a fast-paced game with a lot of energy," Rinne said. "It seems to be working. We seem to have the right players to do that. We've been getting timely goals. But also, we are not sacrificing defensively. It's a whole team effort."
In the third, following a kick save by Rinne against Cam Atkinson, Jones powered his way in and redirected his rebound between Bobrovsky's legs at 6:29 for his first goal.
"Our first two periods we knew we didn't play good enough, and we were still winning," Jones said. "We knew we had another gear."
Smith made it 4-0 with a shot from the right circle.
Moments later, Fisher beat Curtis McElhinney on the first shot he faced for his third at 8:43.
Columbus thought it opened the scoring when Nick Foligno put in a puck during the first period, but the goal was disallowed when a video review determined that the net was off its moorings. Rinne had dislodged it in his attempt to stop Foligno.
"Nobody wants to go down 1-0 that early," Laviolette said. "It's not a goal. I mean the net is off. But again, I think the guys kept going about their business like they have all year. We'd much rather be at zeros swinging as opposed to down 1-0."
NOTES: The Predators will play the Bruins at Boston on Tuesday, but Columbus won't return to the ice until Dec. 27 when the Blue Jackets host Boston. ... Rinne has been in net for all of Nashville's 22 wins. ... Columbus had played six straight games that went beyond regulation. The NHL record is seven. ... The Blue Jackets missed a chance to have their winningest December.