COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Billed as the biggest regular-season game in franchise history, the Columbus Blue Jackets were shut out by goalie Chris Mason before scoring three times in the third period in a stunning turnaround to their season with a 3-1 victory over the Nashville Predators on Saturday.
The Blue Jackets went 8-1-0 in their final nine — all with the specter of a playoff spot hanging over them.Jack Johnson scored the go-ahead goal with 4:48 left but it still wasn't good enough to get them into the playoffs.
The Blue Jackets needed either Detroit or Minnesota to lose on the road on Saturday, but both won. Columbus tied the Wild for eighth place in the West, but were bumped out by a tiebreaker.
"It's a disappointing, sinking feeling right now," coach Todd Richards said.
Shea Weber had the goal for the Predators, who threw a scare into the Blue Jackets but finished 1-9-1 in their last 11. Mason, making just his sixth start of the season because of an injury to starter Pekka Rinne, stopped 44 shots.
"They never give up and they scrap and claw," Mason said of the Blue Jackets. "That's what they've been doing all year."
The Blue Jackets were 5-12-2 — the worst record in the NHL — in late February. Then came a record 12-game points streak (8-0-4) that turned things around as Bobrovsky began to put up stellar numbers. They battled to get into the conversation for a playoff spot, but most thought their undoing would be a grueling six-game road trip that preceded the game with Nashville.
On that trip over four time zones and 12 days they went 5-1- 0 to set themselves up for the drama of the final game, running their record to 19-5-5 over the past two months.A few thousand Blue Jackets fans stuck around after the game to watch the finish of the Wild game. They quietly headed for the exits when Minnesota's 3-1 victory at Colorado was assured.
Brandon Dubinsky tied it early in the third and Cam Atkinson added an empty-netter.
Sergei Bobrovsky, a top contender for the Vezina Trophy given to the NHL's top goaltender, made 19 stops.
"It's a small success," center Mark Letestu said. "Everybody is disappointed in here. The playoffs have always been the goal."