Nashville Predators center Jerred Smithson (25) tries to control the puck as it bounces off the net in the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday, Jan. 23, 2012, in Nashville, Tenn. Predators goalie Pekka Rinne (35), of Finland, guards the net. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - No matter how many times the Nashville Predators beat Columbus, they refuse to take any game against the Blue Jackets for granted.
Mike Fisher scored two goals, and the Predators beat Columbus 4-1 on Monday night for their third straight victory and 11th in 13 games. They also avoided any letdown against a team that is only 5-24-6 in Nashville sandwiched between games against Chicago before the all-star break.
"It was really big," Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne said. "We go way back with the Blue Jackets. We have a little bit of a rivalry. We always know they're going to come hard against us no matter what the situation is, no matter what position they are in the standings. It's always a good matchup. It's just a lot of fun to play against those guys."
The Predators wrapped up their season series with Columbus by going 5-0-1, and Fisher is a big reason for the success against their Central Division-rival. Fisher has scored six of his 11 goals this season against the Blue Jackets.
"It's kind of a funny stat," Fisher said. "I know I've got to make sure I keep going and see if I can score against some other teams."
Matt Halischuk and Patric Hornqvist both scored, and Ryan Suter had two assists as Nashville won for the 12th time in 14 home games. Rinne stopped 25 shots for a franchise-record and career-high eighth straight victory. Two of the last three have come against the Blue Jackets.
"He's always there making key saves, and he's a rock back there for us," Fisher said. "It's no different tonight. He's huge."
Rick Nash scored for Columbus to avoid the shutout as the Blue Jackets lost their third straight. Finishing the season series with another loss doesn't make it any easier.
"We've got to be better here," Nash said. "It's a tough place to play. We've struggled over many years. If you want to be a good team, you got to win in every building it doesn't matter where it is."
The Predators had every reason for a letdown, even with Suter back after he missed three games because of an undisclosed upper body injury.
They were coming off a 5-2 win over Chicago two nights earlier before a raucous sellout crowd, and will visit the Blackhawks on Tuesday night. The Predators came out shooting, and Martin Erat stole the puck in the slot and fed it to Fisher, who beat goalie Steve Mason with a wrister from in front at 8:07.
It could have been worse for the Blue Jackets as the Predators outshot Columbus 12-3 in the first period and had two power plays. But Mason stopped David Legwand's shot from the right circle, with Brett Lebda pushing the net off its moorings at 16:52 for a delay of game penalty. Nashville couldn't take advantage of the power play.
"It wasn't a fun period to watch," Columbus interim coach Todd Richards said. "I think everyone felt that way. They came out and got their game going and we were watching for most of the period."
Columbus kept Rinne very busy in the second. Nash got the puck and skated up the right side before moving in front, where he beat Rinne's outstretched stick with a backhander at 6:14 to tie it 1-1. The Blue Jackets got their lone power play late in the period when Nashville was called for too many men on the ice.
They couldn't convert before being penalized for the same infraction with 20 seconds left on the advantage.
Fisher put Nashville ahead to stay with a power-play goal at 19:31 of the second, off the rebound of a one-timer by captain Shea Weber.
"It was a huge goal at the end of the second that really shifted the momentum," Richards said.
Then Halischuk, a healthy scratch in the previous game, made it 3-1 at 7:37 of the third with a wrist shot from in front. Hornqvist added his 14th on the power-play at 16:51 off an assist from Suter.
"He makes it look so easy," Trotz said of Suter.
NOTES: The Predators are 31-5-3 against Columbus since the 2006-07 season. ... Nashville has killed 17 straight penalties. ... With Fisher's goal, the Predators are one of three teams with eight players with at least 10. Fisher has four goals and seven assists in his last nine games. The Predators are 14-2-1 when Fisher has a point. ... Erat has three goals and eight assists in his eight games. ... Nashville has scored a power-play goal in three straight games, and has nine man-advantage goals in nine games. ... The Blue Jackets are 3-20-2 when allowing the first goal and 1-17-1 when trailing after two periods.