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Predators 5, Blue Jackets 4 @NHLdotcom

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - The Nashville Predators are winning even when they aren't at the top of their game.

Paul Kariya had assists on three of four first-period goals and Nashville hung on to beat Columbus 5-4 Friday night.

``It's a win and they're not always going to be perfect games,'' said goaltender Tomas Vokoun, who made 35 saves. ``They were better than us but we found a way to win.''

Nashville, which entered with the second-most points in the Western Conference, scored three power-play goals for its fifth straight win and eighth in 11 games.

Yanic Perreault and Scottie Upshall each had a goal and an assist for the Predators, who've scored a power-play goal in 18 of 19 games. Scott Hartnell, Vernon Fiddler and Adam Hall also scored. Steve Sullivan, who missed a penalty shot, added two assists.

``This is the kind of season Nashville is having this year, Columbus coach Gerard Gallant said. ``They find a way to scratch out wins. We seem to find a way to lose this year. But we definitely had a chance to win.''

Jaroslav Balastik scored two power-play goals for Columbus, which has lost six in a row. Duvie Westcott added a goal and an assist for the Blue Jackets, losers of eight of 10 at home. Jason Chimera scored his first in 17 games and Adam Foote added two assists.

With Columbus trailing 5-3, Chimera scored on a short-handed breakaway at 14:03 but the Blue Jackets couldn't mount serious pressure afterward.

``Having come back like we did, I think it showed a lot of heart,'' said Columbus captain Foote, who missed four games with a sore groin. ``We played an open game. I think we had to after falling behind early.''

Nashville, which scored six goals in a period last Saturday to beat Columbus, jumped to a 4-2 lead in a wild opening period.

``I think guys are really working hard to get to the net,'' Hartnell said.

The teams scored four goals in three minutes after Hartnell netted his 12th on a power play at 4:24.

Balastik tied it 1-1 at 11:06 with a low one-timer from the right circle inside the near post. Upshall returned the favor 32 seconds later with a slap shot from the left circle on a feed from Kariya to give Nashville a 2-1 lead. Just 25 seconds after that, Westcott's slap shot from the right circle beat a screened Vokoun to tie it.

Fiddler responded for the Predators, knocking a rebound of Kariya's shot past Pascal Leclaire at 14:17.

Perreault made it 4-2 on the power play with his 11th goal, tipping in Kariya's centering pass from the right circle at 19:42.

``We scored early and we were very fortunate when they countered and tied the game up,'' Predators coach Barry Trotz said. ``We responded right away.''

Sullivan, who has 10 points in six games, had a chance to increase the Predators' lead midway through the second period after he was pulled down from behind by Ron Hainsey on a short-handed breakaway. But, Marc Denis, who took over for Leclaire to start the second period, stopped Sullivan's shot from the slot.

Hall didn't waste his chance, scoring on the power play from down low for his seventh at 15:07.

``We're working hard, and we're scoring by committee,'' Sullivan said.

Balastik scored again for his fifth goal of the season, jamming in a loose puck to make it 5-3 at 17:18. The play was reviewed because it looked as though he might have pushed the puck over the goal line with his hand.

Columbus, which entered with the NHL's worst power play, finished 2-for-10 with the man advantage.

``I thought the power play and the goaltending were key for us,'' Trotz said. ``Mentally, we weren't as focused as we should be.''

Notes: Columbus entered as the league's lowest-scoring team with 68 goals. Calgary was next-to-last with 84. ... The Blue Jackets haven't scored more than four goals in a game. ... Nashville entered with 47 points, two behind Western Conference-leading Detroit. ... The Predators are the only team not to lose a divisional game in regulation (9-0-1). Columbus beat them in overtime. ... Leclaire faced 11 shots in the first period. Denis made 10 saves over the final two periods.

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