NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - The Columbus Blue Jackets might have what it takes to be an NHL playoff team. They just found out too late to help them this season.
While reduced to playing out the string, working for contracts and pride, the Blue Jackets stretched their winning streak to a franchise-record six games with a 3-1 victory over the Nashville Predators on Monday night.
Nashville, which will be in the playoffs, joins Dallas and Detroit as postseason-bound teams that have fallen to the Blue Jackets in this run. Columbus also knocked off playoff hopeful San Jose and also-rans Chicago and St. Louis.
"It means a lot to win six games in a row," Blue Jackets forward Jason Chimera said. "We can compete with the best teams in the league. I think we are a playoff hockey team. We proved over the last six games that we can play with anybody."
Manny Malhotra, Chimera and Mark Hartigan each scored for Columbus. The Predators started No. 2 goaltender Chris Mason instead of Tomas Vokoun, who is expected to be out for at least two games with a sore back.
Pascal Leclaire made 36 saves for the Blue Jackets, which lost three previous games this season in Nashville.
"Coming in here and winning the sixth game is tough," Columbus coach Gerard Gallant said. "We have had a bad record here this season."
The Predators, however, lost for the fifth time in six games. Playing without Steve Sullivan and Marek Zidlicky, two of the key elements of their power play, the Predators scored on one of 10 chances. They had two 5-on-3 advantages in the second period when they went scoreless on five power plays.
"Not having Sullivan and Zidlicky in the lineup affects your power play," Predators coach Barry Trotz said. "We had lots of chances in the second period, but we didn't capitalize."
Nashville jumped out to a 1-0 lead a little over one minute in during a power play. Yanic Perreault passed the puck from the right circle to Dan Hamhuis, who was skating in from the left side.
The Predators gave up a short-handed goal that got the Blue Jackets even. Malhotra beat Mason to his stick side from close range at 10:07.
Columbus struck again 5 minutes later. Aaron Johnson fired a one-timer from along the left wall just inside the blue line. Chimera was stationed near the crease and flipped the deflection over Mason's shoulder.
The Blue Jackets then scored 6:38 into the third period when Hartigan corralled a loose puck in the slot and sent a wrist shot past Mason.
"I give full credit to Columbus," Trotz said. "They were very resilient. They had a hot goaltender. They capitalized on their chances."
The Blue Jackets lost David Vyborny at the 10:05 mark of the first period after colliding with Brendan Witt. According to Gallant, Vyborny injured his knee in the play at center ice.
"I think they (NHL) are going to look at it," Gallant said. "I think he is going to be out for a while."