With 5:36 left in the third period at the Bridgestone Arena on Saturday night, the Nashville Predators trailed Columbus 3-2. The last time Columbus had won inside the building, Nashville forward Nick Spaling was a 17-year-old playing for the Kitchener Rangers.
In an instant, 23-year-old Spaling tied the game off of a rebound and gave Nashville a glimmer of hope.
“It was a big shot by Weber there,” Spaling said. “It was a hard shot with a big rebound. There was a bouncing puck that I swatted at and it managed to find its way in.”
Spaling’s goal managed to stand up as the tying goal and earned Nashville a point. Columbus, however, won their first game in Nashville in over five years off of a James Wisniewski slapshot.
“Division teams, those wins are huge,” Spaling said. “We never want to lose against a rival division team. Those were a big two points they got. Every point is big, but we were definitely looking for two.”
“Like every loss,” Spaling added. “We have to learn from that one and move on to the next game.”
However, Spaling was quick to give Columbus credit for the game they played. The Blue Jackets picked up only their fourth win of the season and managed to finally break the 10-point mark on the year.
“They’re definitely a better team than their record shows,” Spaling said. “That’s a good team. We knew that coming into it. We weren’t taking them lightly. They’ve got everything there to win hockey games. We just have to do better next time.”
The game began with two quick fights: Jordin Tootoo and Derek Dorsett squared off at the initial puck drop, while Brian McGrattan and Jared Boll tangled merely a minute later. However, the teams exhibited very little chippiness after the opening minutes of the first period.
“That comes with being division rivals,” Spaling said. “We play each other so much that some games are going to get heated. We’re both similar teams. We’re hard-working, grinding teams that play that type of game. I think it’s a little bit expected. It’s good. It gets both teams going.”
“I thought it actually wasn’t that chippy after that,” Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. “It actually settled things down.”
For Spaling, his goal not only came at an opportune time for him in the game, it came at an opportune time during the season. Barry Trotz admitted frustration with the recent play of the team’s “role players”.
“You have three or four guys who are absolutely the same and I want to change at least their mentality,” Trotz said. “Spals is in that group. He scored today. Hopefully he’ll get more.”
For Spaling, who has scored every one of his 10 career goals at Bridgestone Arena, it was the first time in his career that he scored a goal in a Nashville loss.