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Preds, somehow, someway, come back and beat Jackets…

Sometimes teams have no business being in games. That was the case Thursday night in Columbus.

In front of a reported 13,852 at Nationwide Arena, the Nashville Predators played miserable hockey but somehow managed to find their game in the final 4:00 of action to pull out a miracle victory.

Rinne made 21 saves for his 11th win of the year but, really, Nashville did their best work when he was out of the net.

In short, the Predators scored two goals with their net empty and then used overtime to win the game.

“Obviously we didn’t win any draws at our end of the rink,” Columbus Head Coach Scott Arniel said. “Once they tied it up, we were pretty rattled after that.”

Columbus got things started toward the end of an otherwise uneventful first period. After a lengthy delay, Jeff Carter was finally given credit for a goal he’d scored several minutes earlier. The shot was called “no goal” on the ice because, it was thought, the puck deflected off of Ryan Suter and out. In reality, the shot hit the rear padded crossbar flush and sprung out. Play continued and, once there was a whistle, the officials got a chance to look at it. The end result was the correct call: a goal and 1-0 Columbus lead.

“I didn’t see it go in but Vinny (Prospal) was right in front of me,” Carter said. “We both came back (to the bench) and said we heard it hit a bar.”

Antoine Vermette made it 2-0 in the middle frame after Jack Hillen left him alone in the slot. Vermette rolled off the Preds defenseman toward the net and banged home the rebound for the score.

Moments later, however, the Preds answered. Sergei Kostitsyn corralled a Hillen rebound and nudged it over to Mike Fisher at the side of the net. Fisher made no mistake and pulled the Preds within one.

In the opening minutes of the third stanza, Derek Dorsett burst through the middle of the ice (and through Kevin Klein and Francis Bouillon) to break in on Rinne. His goal gave the home team a 3-1 edge and what seemed like a choke-hold on the contest.

Nashville had only three shots on goal in the final period until they made things interesting with a Patric Hornqvist tally. With less than 2:00 remaining, Rinne left the net giving his team an extra attacker. Hornqvist got several attempts at a rebound and finally put one past Curtis Sanford. After the play, the Stockholm, Sweden native got blasted from behind by Nikita Nikitin and went head first into the boards. No penalty was called.

Moments later, Sami Pahlsson got whistled for cross-checking and, therefore, gave the Predators a power play with one last chance to pull off a miracle. Arniel was not happy about the penalty.

“It was a pretty (expletive) make-up call by the referee,” Arniel said. “That was horrendous.”

Carter was a lot more professional than his coach.

“We consider it a questionable call at the end there,” Carter said. “But the ref’s don’t lose you the game. Good teams go out and kill those off and finish off the game.”

Regardless of the infraction’s validity, on the ensuing man advantage, Kostitsyn tipped an Erat shot from the point and, with only 13 ticks on the clock, tied the game.

In overtime, the Preds rode their surprising momentum to a surprising victory. Erat led a 2-on-1 rush with Colin Wilson, who one-timed it past Sanford for the winner.

The victory ties Nashville with the Los Angeles Kings for eighth in the Western Conference (30 points). It also puts them just five points behind Detroit for second place in the Central Division.

The Preds play their newest (and arguably most hated) rival the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday night at Bridgestone Arena. Puck drops at 7:00pm Central.

* Bouillon dropped the gloves with Dorsett in the first period. Bouillon missed the final three months of last season and then the first month of this season with a concussion. You have to wonder if engaging in extra-circulars is smart.
* Nashville tough guy Brian McGrattan played in his 200th NHL game tonight.
* This was Predators forward Kyle Wilson‘s first game in Columbus since January 14, 2011. His Blue Jackets beat the Detroit Red Wings 3-2 that night.
* He hasn’t scored a goal since March 20 but the Predators obviously miss Blake Geoffrion. They are 2-6-1 without him.
* With Geoffrion in the lineup? 11-5-3.
* Kostitsyn, Nashville’s leading goal scorer last season, has been just shy of awful recently so it was good to see him contribute tonight. In the month of October, he looked like he had picked up where he left off last year, compiling eight points in nine games. Since then, however, he’s scored just five (13 games).
* With his two helpers tonight, Ryan Suter has 17 points in his last 19 games. Shea Weber also got an assist, giving him 17 in that same span.
* Fisher dominated in the face-off  dot, going an incredible 16-3.
* How Hornqvist was not voted a star in this game is beyond me. He was on the ice for all three Nashville regulation goals, scored the goal that gave them life and then created the screen that allowed the trying goal. He was everywhere tonight and should’ve been given the appropriate accolades.

1) Colin Wilson (NSH)
2) Antoine Vermette (CMB)
3) Sergei Kostitysn (NSH)

SPECIAL THANKS to the Columbus Blue Jackets for the post-game comments.

PHOTO CREDIT: @HollyBerry2134 // Twitter (permission pending)