NHL Hockey

Jackets fighting for playoff spot as they face Predators

It is becoming awfully late in the season for lessons but the Columbus Blue Jackets learned a big one in beating the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday. It's one they'll look to take into Saturday's road clash with the Nashville Predators.

As they trailed the Montreal Canadiens 2-1 midway through their critical game in the Eastern Conference wild-card race battle, the Blue Jackets may have discovered something -- or, even more important, something about themselves -- when it comes to embracing the opportunity instead of becoming paralyzed by it.

Head coach John Tortorella, the coach who has always preached up-tempo hockey and had the mantra "Safe is Death" while guiding the Tampa Bay Lightning to the Stanley Cup in 2004, was proud as a parent with how his team took off with five unanswered goals en route to a 6-2 win that vaulted them over the Canadiens for the second wild-card spot.

"We talked about it in between periods, of not letting this moment go by and regretting that you didn't enjoy it, that you didn't give in and just allow yourself to play," Tortorella said in the aftermath of Thursday's win. "We talked about a number of things, but that was the biggest point. Don't let the moment go by and regret it later.

"Don't say, 'You know what, maybe I was too nervous,' or 'I didn't do enough.' Leave it there on the ice."

With five games remaining in the regular season, the Blue Jackets (43-30-4, 90 points) control their own destiny with a playoff spot on the line.

Columbus, which is riding a three-game winning streak, is one point back of the Carolina Hurricanes for the first wild-card spot, and tied with the Canadiens in points, but holding a game in hand, plus the first tiebreaker of regulation/overtime wins.

Nashville (44-28-6, 94 points) returns home after a 3-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins Friday night. By claiming a second consecutive victory, and going on a 5-1-1 run, the Predators are even in points with the Winnipeg Jets for first place in the Central Division. Winnipeg has a game in hand, but it's not impossible to imagine Nashville vaulting the Jets.

"We still have a chance catching Winnipeg so all of these games have a lot of meaning," Preds goalie Pekka Rinne told FOX Sports Tennessee.

Nashville is starting to look much like last year's Presidents' Trophy winning club, having surrendered only 11 goals in the last seven games -- and five of them came in one outing.

However, the Predators have a quick turnaround, returning home after a road game to face a team that was in Nashville on Friday.

"Another big game, but when you win a game, you don't feel as tired, you're happy and it's the best feeling in the world," Rinne said. "I think we're going to be ready."

"They're licking their chops right now," Nashville defenseman PK Subban added in a FOX Sports interview. "They're trying to stay in the playoffs. They had a big win against Montreal. This game is probably their season they're fighting for. We have to bring the intensity we brought tonight."

--Field Level Media

Updated March 30, 2019

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