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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The Columbus Blue Jackets' stunning two-month run from dead last in the league to the verge of the Stanley Cup playoffs ended in fitting fashion last night in Nationwide Arena.
The Blue Jackets scored three goals in the third period to claim a 3-1 win over Nashville, thrilling a standing-room-only crowd of 19,002.
But it was unclear immediately after the game if the Blue Jackets would make their second playoff appearance in franchise history. The Jackets needed the Minnesota Wild to lose to the Colorado Avalanche to land the eighth seed in the Western Conference.
Brandon Dubinsky, Jack Johnson and Cam Atkinson scored in the final 9:51 of the third, and goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky had 19 saves.
The Blue Jackets improved to 19-5-5 since Feb. 24. It wasn't as easy as they would have liked, though.
Nashville, even with seven regulars out of the lineup -- including No. 1 goaltender Pekka Rinne -- held a 1-0 lead 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.
Weber's goal at 8:29 of the second put the Nationwide Arena crowd on edge. If the Blue Jackets lost, they'd be eliminated from playoff contention no matter what else happened around the league.
Not to worry.
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.
NOTES: Blue Jackets center Artem Anisimov returned to the lineup after missing five games with a concussion. ... Nashville coach Barry 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.