The Blue Jackets had built up significant pressure through the first 40 minutes of Tuesday night's game. In the third period, the top blew off.
Playoff implications and a bitter, long-standing rivalry only amplified the ramifications of a late February game between Western Conference foes. Riding a 9-3-3 run coming into the game, Columbus wanted to continue its northern push to crack the top-eight and gain points on a team sitting ahead in the standings.
Rick Nash flew past Kevin Klein and stuffed the puck into Pekka Rinne's goal crease. Nashville defenseman Shea Weber may have helped it over the line, but the red light signaled a huge 1-0 lead for Columbus.
"It was kind of a lucky play," Nash said. "If you look at the replay, (the Predators defenseman) actually put it in. I just brought it to the net."
"You have to love this time of year." - Head Coach Scott Arniel
The brilliant power move by the Blue Jackets' captain was just beginning of another great night for the Jackets leader.
Nash has certainly risen to the occasion. His pair of goals (28, 29) increased his team lead in that department and gives him points in five consecutive games. He has 10-12-22 the past 15 games and has been the offensive catalyst in the team's recent surge.
"The first two periods, there wasn't too much room out there and we had to create all of our chances," Nash said.
"The guys stuck with it and stuck to the game plan for 60 minutes and it ended up working."
And whatever worked the first time, they repeated.
In a close game with such high stakes, all it took was one goal to ignite an offensive explosion. Goals from Matt Calvert, Antoine Vermette and another from Nash capped a four-goal third period for the Blue Jackets – their first four-goal period since March 25, 2010 vs. Chicago – a span of 66 games.
And though it seemed the goals came fast and furious, the buzz word around the team post-game was "patience". The Predators are known as a stingy and competitive bunch, and the Blue Jackets made sure they hung around and waited for their opportunities to develop.
When those chances arose, they made no mistake. The Blue Jackets’ 4-0 win brings them within two points of the final playoff spot in the West and improves their record to 7-1-1 in the past nine games. Since dropping five straight games Jan. 2-11, they are 10-3-3 and put themselves firmly in the postseason conversation.
"You have to love this time of year," Blue Jackets head coach Scott Arniel said. "It's what the players live to play for. This is as close to playoff hockey as you are going to see.
"These are exciting times and guys can feel it and are feeding off the energy that comes from these games. It certainly brings out the best in people."