NASHVILLE -- Marian Gaborik's favorite movie is "Wedding Crashers."
If his first game with Columbus is any indication, the Blue Jackets might become playoff crashers.
The three-time All-Star potted a tie-breaking goal early in the third period Thursday night as Columbus picked up a big 3-1 win over Nashville in a matchup of Western Conference postseason hopefuls.
Gaborik, who chafed at the intense coaching style of New York Rangers bench boss John Tortorella before being dealt to the Blue Jackets Wednesday, scored just nine goals in 35 matches this year for the Rangers.
But he had 41 last season, good for third in the NHL, and his ability to light the lamp should be a big boost for a Columbus club, which is trying to make the playoffs for just the second time in its 13-season existence.
"He's going to be a huge, huge part for us," Blue Jackets left wing Vinny Prospal said of Gaborik. "You just have to look at it as a fresh start and he made it look really good today."
Gaborik showed why the Blue Jackets traded three everyday players -- Derick Brassard, Derek Dorsett and John Moore -- for him at 4:16 of the third. Center Brandon Dubinsky set Gaborik up at the doorstep and he made no mistake for his 334th career goal.
"It felt good to come out and play," Gaborik said. "I'm glad that I have the first one under my belt."
"He adds a playmaking element," Columbus coach Todd Richards said of Gaborik. "I think he backed off their defensemen in the neutral zone. They play a tight gap coverage and his speed wide created space in the neutral zone."
Gaborik started the game on a line with Prospal and center Artem Anisimov, then was teamed with Dubinsky and left wing Matt Calvert.
"I didn't even notice he was out there until I saw him on a late (line) change," Calvert said. "It gets you excited because he's such a skilled hockey player. He showed what he brings to the table. He's a welcome addition."
Inspired by the new arrival, Calvert tacked on an insurance goal at 10:50, wristing a 44-footer off the stick handle of Pekka Rinne. Calvert had a goal waved off at 6:42 when replay officials in Toronto ruled he kicked the puck into the net.
Lost in Gaborik's acquisition was another big game for Blue Jackets goalkeeper Sergei Bobrovsky, who stopped 38 of 39 Predator shots, including seven inside the game's first three minutes.
"Bobrovsky was tremendous, making save after save," Gaborik said. "He kept us in there."
Kevin Klein's rebound goal at 12:14 of the second period, which drew Nashville (15-15-8) even, was its only tally. The Predators were playing their first game without veteran right wing Martin Erat, traded to Washington Wednesday for highly-regarded prospect Filip Forsberg.
"Everyone has to step up," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said of replacing Erat. "We're going to need some offense. We're going to have to get dirty. We need to find ways to find points. We need to play a team game and trust in each other that we can get it done."
While Columbus (16-14-7) kept pace in the wild West playoff chase, the Predators failed to gain ground and only have 10 games left -- the fewest among the Western contenders. And they face a daunting home-and-home Saturday and Sunday night against Chicago.
"There's not much margin for error left," Trotz said. "We just have to worry about the next game and put our absolute best effort in."
James Wisniewski scored the first goal for the Blue Jackets, which won in regulation for the first time at Bridgestone Arena since April 3, 2006. Their new guy was a big reason why.
"He's a world-class player," Nashville center David Legwand said of Gaborik. "He's a great skater and he creates chances out there."
Notes: Rinne leads the league in ice time, logging a whopping 1,968 minutes and 27 seconds entering Thursday night's game, which he started ... Columbus defenseman Adrian Aucoin could play the 1,100th game of his NHL career Friday evening in St. Louis ... Predators center Mike Fisher (hand) returned after missing the last three games, but left wing Gabriel Bourque (upper-body injury) missed his second straight contest ... Among the Blue Jackets' scratches were right wing Blake Comeau, who was acquired in a trade Wednesday from Calgary, and Jared Boll (lower-body injury).