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Blue Jackets win, fall short of playoffs

The SportsXchange

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The Blue Jackets' stunning run the last two months conjured dreams of the franchise's second berth in the Stanley Cup playoffs. If only it had started one game earlier.

The Jackets took care of their business with a 3-1 win over Nashville before 19,002 in Nationwide Arena on Saturday night, but the help they needed from two other Western Conference clubs never arrived.

Detroit beat Dallas 3-0 and Minnesota defeated Colorado 3-1, giving the Red Wings and Wild the final two playoff spots in the West and leaving the Blue Jackets on the wrong end of a tiebreaker.

The Blue Jackets had the same number of points as the Wild (55), but Minnesota had more regulation and overtime wins.

"One point short," Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said. "We came one point short. All that means is we weren't quite good enough. We played our hearts out down the stretch, but it wasn't quite enough."

Brandon Dubinsky, Jack Johnson and Cam Atkinson scored for the Blue Jackets, and goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky had 19 saves.

The Blue Jackets were 19-5-5 since Feb. 24, when they were 5-12-2 and parked in last place in the NHL.

"I'm so proud of this team," Dubinsky said. "The way we pulled together, the way we kept going, the way we showed everybody what the guys in this room are all about. We had a great run.

"It's no fun to see it end like this. It's terrible, actually. We came so close."

Nashville, even with seven regulars out of the lineup -- including No. 1 goaltender Pekka Rinne -- led 1-0 until the midpoint of the third period.

Shea Weber scored for the Predators and goaltender Chris Mason, making only his eighth start of the season, had 44 saves.

The Blue Jackets pulled to 1-1 at 10:09 of the third on a power-play goal. It was only fitting that Dubinsky scored, as it was he who drew the holding call on Nashville's Chris Mueller that led to the power play.

Columbus' Marian Gaborik chipped the puck to Dubinsky from below the goal line and Dubinsky scored through Mason's pads off his backhand.

Johnson made it 2-1 at 15:12 of the third. He tried to set up Dubinsky in the low slot, but Weber whacked at the puck with this stuck and sent it through Mason's pads and into the Nashville net.

With Mason pulled, Atkinson was sprung on a breakaway by Blake Comeau and buried it with ease.

"They had a lot of desperation in their game," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "We had two pretty good periods, but their desperation level got ramped up to playoff level and we weren't able to match it.

"I didn't like our response in the third period, but it's probably understandable. It's been Columbus' way to find a way to win all season. They had a lot of energy in the building tonight."

NOTES: Blue Jackets center Artem Anisimov returned to the lineup after missing five games with a concussion. ... Trotz said the decision to start Mason over Rinne was made earlier in the week because Rinne has a previously undisclosed injury. ... In their first 11 seasons in the NHL, Columbus never finished closer than 20 points behind the Red Wings. ... The Jackets signed Atkinson to a two-year, $2.3 million contract extension on Friday. He was set to become a restricted free agent on July 1.
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