The Columbus Blue Jackets and Nashville Predators played on Saturday night in the final game of the regular season. At the beginning of the day with playoff seeding still up in the air, John Tortorella made the decision to rest many of the CBJ starters for the contest.
Artemi Panarin, Cam Atkinson, Alexander Wennberg, Seth Jones, Zach Werenski, Ryan Murray, and Sergei Bobrovsky were all inactive for Saturday night’s game in Nashville.
Across the ice, the Predators, who had already locked up the top spot in the Western Conference, got off to a big lead in the first period.
Austin Watson got the scoring started 7:52 into the period following a Matt Calvert turnover in the neutral zone to put the home team up 1-0. Filip Forsberg then added a pair of power-play goals – the second coming with one second left on the clock – to make it 3-0 Predators as the teams went into the first intermission.
The Jackets were able to get on the board in the second period when Josh Anderson, who was playing in his second game back from injury, beat Pekka Rinne to make it 3-1. His goal was the only one for either team during the second period.
Entering the third period, the New Jersey Devils had already lost their game against the Washington Capitals, giving the CBJ clarity on their first-round opponent based on the outcome of the game in Nashville. With a win they’d face the Pittsburgh Penguins, and with a loss they’d be taking on the Caps.
At the 7:20 mark of the third period, Brandon Dubinsky scored a shorthanded goal to cut the deficit to one. That would be as close as they’d come.
The Blue Jackets had a few opportunities down the stretch but weren’t able to beat Juuse Saros, who had come on in relief of Rinne to start the third period. With 39 seconds left and Joonas Korpisalo on the bench for an extra attacker, Filip Forsberg flipped a puck from his own zone into the empty net for a hat-trick goal to secure a 4-2 victory for the Preds.
After the game, Tortorella was happy to see how some of the new faces performed, and ready to move on to the postseason, saying:
It’s good to see some of the guys play, some of the kids play, we get out of there injury free, now we look to the most important stuff.
After 82 games, the Jackets finished with a 45-30-7 record, good for the first Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference. They’ll head to Washington, D.C. to face the Capitals in first round of Stanley Cup Playoffs with all the regulars back in the lineup next week.