During their game at the Dallas Stars, the Columbus Blue Jackets knew that a loss would end their playoff hopes. The Detroit Red Wings had defeated the Nashville Predators on Thursday night; the Dallas game was literally a must-win.
Win they did.
“We all know that our job’s not done yet. We’re excited to get home and find a way to finish it off the right way,” said forward Brandon Dubinsky.
The No. 8-seeded Wings have 54 points, also with one game remaining. The Blue Jackets also tied the Minnesota Wild with 53 points, although the Wild have two games remaining.
Both the Wings and Wild own the primary tiebreaker – non-shootout wins – over Columbus.
Hence, the Blue Jackets will need a win over Nashville at a sold-out Nationwide Arena on Saturday coupled with a Red Wings’ loss in regulation against Dallas to surpass the Wings.
But if the Wild go 0-1-1 or 0-2-0 against the Edmonton Oilers and Colorado Avalanche, then the Jackets can make the playoffs.
If the Wild wins out, it can finish as high as sixth if the San Jose Sharks lose in regulation to the Los Angeles Kings in their finale.
If the Wild wins out and the Sharks get a point, the Wild would finish seventh.
If the Wild wins one and the Red Wings lose Saturday, the Wild would finish seventh.
If the Wild wins one and the Red Wings win Saturday, the Wild finishes eighth.
If the Wild loses out and the Jackets get one point Saturday, the Wild is eliminated.
If the Wild loses out and the Jackets lose Saturday, the Wild finishes eight.
Columbus goalie Sergei Bobrovsky made 31 saves for his 20th win of the season. Mark Letestu’s power-play blast from the top of the zone at 7:56 of the third period broke a 1-1 tie; Cam Atkinson’s power-play tally at 18:20 iced it. It was his second goal of the game.
So the Blue Jackets – picked by many to be the worst team in the Western Conference after trading star captain Rick Nash last summer – are alive in the season’s final game after a 5-1 road trip late in the season.
Win or lose on Saturday, this is one of the NHL’s greatest hockey fables of 2013.