The Columbus Blue Jackets still can't put away the Nashville Predators.
Columbus tore Nashville apart in the first 20 minutes Thursday night, scoring four goals to take a 4-1 lead into the first intermission. The Jackets led 5-2 before Nashville scored twice in the second period to make it close and twice more in the last five minutes of regulation -- including Martin Erat’s game-winner with 8.4 seconds to play -- for a 6-5 win.
The comeback came two weeks after the Predators overcame a 3-1 deficit in the final 1:36 of regulation and beat the Jackets 4-3 in overtime at Nationwide Arena in Columbus.
With time running down in regulation, Ryan Suter's pass sprung Erat through the defense at the Columbus blue line. Erat raced past two defensemen, deked right and finished with a low backhand past Curtis Sanford’s right pad to complete the comeback.
David Legwand tied the game with 3:46 left when he took Colin Wilson's pass and fired a high shot past a Sanford after a period of sustained pressure.
"I just tried to get my stick open for Colin," Legwand said. "He made a good pass there and I was able to get it in. It is a good thing for us to get the `W' and to get the points."
Mike Fisher, Patric Hornqvist, Nick Spaling and Roman Josi also scored for Nashville (17-12-4), which beat Columbus for the 18th time in their last 19 meetings at Bridgestone Arena.
"I've seen this so many times in the past where something comes too easy for a team, all of a sudden they've got a big lead," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "All you have to do is chip away because there was a ton of time left. We did that."
Columbus (9-21-4) got three goals in a 3:18 span of the first period from Jeff Carter. But the Jackets became the second team this season to lead a game by three goals and come away with no points. New Jersey achieved that dubious feat in a 4-3 loss to Florida on Nov. 21.
"We play a great first two periods for so many games, and in the third periods, we just collapse or whatever it is," Johansen said. "We practice all week working on our third periods and things we should do a little smarter, and to get a loss again in the third period like that is mentally tough."
Carter scored his third career hat trick and set a franchise record for the fastest three goals. Rookie Ryan Johansen added his sixth and seventh goals of the season.
The Predators took an early lead with Nikita Nikitin off for holding. With the defense stretched, Ryan Suter had plenty of space to unload a shot from inside the right circle. The puck fell to the back post, where Fisher was there for the simplest of finishes at 12:29.
Seconds later, the Jackets’ buzzed to life. Rick Nash skated behind the goal and pushed it out to Carter, who one-timed it past Pekka Rinne (26 saves).
Nashville's Brian McGrattan was assessed a major penalty for interference and a game misconduct after hitting Jared Boll near the Predators' bench. Boll stayed on the ice for a while after the hit and then went back to the locker room, but returned to the game in the second period.
The Jackets made the Predators pay -- three times.
At 14:35, Carter scored his second, this time when the puck squirted out of a scrum in front of the crease. From there, it was an easy finish to the near post. Johansen scored his first a minute later, finishing another one-timer off a deflected pass from almost the same area as Carter’s first. Carter completed his lightning-quick hat trick at 16:14, putting home his own rebound after Rinne stopped a flurry of shots.
It wasn't enough.
Patric Hornqvist, whose goal triggered the comeback in Columbus two weeks earlier, made it 4-2 at 5:28 of the second, but Johansen scored his second at 7:52 when he connected for the Jackets' fourth power-play goal of the night.
From there it was all Predators -- Nashville outshot Columbus 28-16.
"I would say that we played great the first 10 or 12 minutes and after that we took bad penalties," Erat said. "In the second period, we started playing a sloppy game. After we got a little offensive pressure in their zone, and that's when they made the turnovers and we capitalized on them."
Just 61 seconds after Johansen's goal, Colin Wilson took advantage of a broken play behind the net to skate out and find Spaling at the opposite post for his fifth of the season.
The Nashville crowd was fully into the game when, at 13:41, defenseman Josi gathered at the far edge of the right circle and whipped a ferocious slap shot high past Sanford for his second of the season.
"We get the fifth one and we still didn't put them away," Sanford said. "It's definitely disappointing. It's definitely frustrating. We just have to find a way to stop killing ourselves here."
Material from team media and wire services was used in this report