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Jackets hold on against Predators to extend streak @NHL

This being the Columbus Blue Jackets, it had to be a one-goal game.

Columbus held on for a 4-3 victory against the Nashville Predators on Tuesday at Nationwide Arena after taking a 4-1 lead into the final three minutes.

The Blue Jackets extended their franchise-record points streak to 11 games (7-0-4).

"I think the expectations now are to win," Columbus forward Mark Letestu said. "I think when you put together a streak like this where you're collecting points, the expectations of the room amongst the guys rises. You expect to win, you expect to gain points every night."

Columbus (12-12-6, 30 points) is one of 11 Western Conference teams bunched within 34-28 points. The regulation win -- the Blue Jackets' second since Feb. 21 -- broke a tie with the Predators.

"To win the way we did was another step in the right direction," Letestu said. "Now we're two points ahead of them, and that's two points they can't get. We know we're going to be battling these guys the rest of the way."

Columbus, which played in its 21st one-goal game of the season, scored twice in the third period to extend a 2-1 lead. It was their first game in five that did not go to a shootout, after playing nine of 10 that went at least to overtime.

"We've been winning games, but only gaining one point," Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said.

Nashville's Chris Mueller and Mike Fisher scored in the final 2:01 to become the first team in seven games to score three times against Columbus goalie Sergei Bobrovsky.

"We relaxed in the final ... it was disappointing, too, because our goaltender's been so good," Richards said. "The final 1:13 was a game and it shouldn't have gotten to that point."

Second-period goals by Fedor Tyutin and Letestu put the Blue Jackets ahead 2-0, and Nikita Nikitin and Derick Brassard scored in the third.

Gabriel Bourque also scored for Nashville, which lost is fourth in a row and is in a 3-9-1 slide.

"We didn't quit at the end, that was a positive," Predators coach Barry Trotz said, according to the Nashville Tennessean. "But positive doesn't get you points."

Nashville is without injured forwards Paul Gaustad, Patric Hornqvist and Colin Wilson, and defensemen Scott Hannan and Hal Gill.

And forward Sergei Kostitsyn was a healthy scratch after his poor line change led to a shorthanded goal by the Edmonton Oilers in the previous game.

"I know some guys are playing over their heads, some guys quite clearly can't play at this level, that’s plain and simple," Trotz said. "But we're going to sort that out and go from there. Some guys, I'm not happy with their game, they have to give us more.

"I can go top to bottom; there's some guys in that locker room who can give us a lot more, and that's the part that bothers me."

Tyutin opened the scoring 4:08 into the second period. He got the puck where the offensive blue line meets the left-wing boards, and his shot from there deflected off a Predators player and past goalie Pekka Rinne.

Letestu gave Columbus a 2-0 lead thanks to a keep-in by Dalton Prout. The defenseman was able to reach a weak clearing attempt with his backhand and get the puck to Vinny Prospal, who sent a diagonal cross-ice pass to Letestu near the left circle.

Letestu's wrist shot beat Rinne between his blocker and armpit at 9:39, with the assist giving Prout his first NHL point.

Since Prout was recalled from Springfield of the American Hockey League on March 1, Columbus is 6-0-3.

"It's fun to win," he said. "Maybe I'm the lucky charm. I want to stay as long as possible and relay that message to the coaching staff."

Prospal's assist gave him 500 for his career, and his three-assist game pushed his total to 501.

"Scoring goals for us has been an ongoing process," Prospal said. "For us to score four goals in one game, we give ourselves a pretty good chance to win, especially the way Sergei has been playing."

Nashville made it 2-1 after the Columbus defense failed to approach Predators defenseman Roman Josi. David Legwand sent a pass to Josi at the blue line, and as he skated toward the net between the circles, two Columbus players let him do so, and his wrist shot was deflected by Bourque past Bobrovsky with 5:15 left in the second period.

The goal ended Bobrovsky's shutout streak at 128:00. He wound up with 32 saves, and his goals-against average went up for the first time in nine games.

Earlier in the second, Bobrvosky took a Kevin Klein slap shot off his mask, shaken up to the point he required smelling salts on the ice. In the first period, Bobrovsky had his mask lifted by the stick of Predators forward Craig Smith.

The Blue Jackets restored their two-goal lead on a third-period power play. Jack Johnson passed to Prospal from the blue line; Prospal sent it back to Nikitin at the line, and his high slap shot went over Rinne at 10:00.

"We went over something today that would take that type of goal away and we didn't stay to detail on it," Trotz said. "And therefore they get a seam pass and it ends up in our net. There's a lot of frustration in our game right now."

It became 4-1 when Brassard finished a 3-on-2, converting passes from Letestu and Prospal with 7:19 remaining.

Mueller scored his first NHL goal at 17:59 when Rich Clune's forecheck pass from behind the net found him in front for a tap-in. Fisher got a rebound past Bobrovsky with a spinning backhand 47 seconds later.

"Giving up two goals in the last minute-and-a-half takes away (a little bit)," Prospal said. "It shows you can't take [your foot] off the gas pedal. You can't give them chances like that at the end."

Columbus ends a five-game homestand Friday against the Calgary Flames. Nashville starts a four-game homestand against Calgary on Thursday and Columbus on Saturday after ending this five-game road trip 1-4-0.

Material from team media and wire services were used in this report.

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