Bridgestone Arena is one of the toughest places for visiting NHL teams to win, so it's not surprising that the Nashville Predators
would like to start their playoffs there.
The Predators locked up a playoff berth on Friday by beating the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-1 before their 16th sellout crowd of the season. But there's no way they'll be taking it easy in Saturday night's regular-season finale at St. Louis -- not with the possibility that they could get the home-ice advantage in the opening round.
"We've got some unfinished business," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said after his team clinched its sixth playoff berth in seven seasons.
"We said we want to go as high as we can, and if we can get two more points tomorrow night that'd be huge for us as a team and an organization. You're talking about maybe the possibility of home ice. Home ice has been an advantage for us this past month. We'll take it right now."
Patric Hornqvist scored a pair of goals and had an assist as the Predators wrapped up their home schedule by moving into fourth place in the West. A win at St. Louis would earn them the chance to open the first round at home -- where they went 24-9-8.
"There's a lot on the table," said goalie Pekka Rinne, who made 44 saves. "We can still finish fourth. I think we need a little bit of help from other teams, but it's in our hands and that would be amazing to start at home."
Matt Halischuk and Sergei Kostitsyn also scored to help the Predators extend the NHL's longest active home winning streak against one team with its 17th straight home victory against Columbus. The Blue Jackets haven't won in Nashville since April 3, 2006.
Derick Brassard scored for Columbus, which lost its fifth in a row.
"Obviously, they have a good team, they have good fans, and it is pretty hard to play here but 0-17 needs to stop," Brassard said. "Next year we are going to take care of that."
With another packed house of 17,113 on hand, the Predators wasted little time ensuring at least another postseason berth against a Columbus team playing with captain Rick Nash -- he sat out his fifth straight game with a back injury.
The Blue Jackets outshot the Predators 45-25, but Rinne improved to 33-21-9 by stopping shot after shot.
"To me, he's our MVP without a doubt," Trotz said. "I would say he's probably the best goaltender in the National Hockey League. You have to talk about who's the most valuable player to his team, which is what the Hart Trophy's about. Pekka's got to be in the top three for me."
Hornqvist opened the scoring 6 minutes into the first period when he tapped the puck into the open net after Mike Fisher drew a couple of Blue Jackets and goalie Steve Mason to him at the post.
The Predators broke the game open by scoring two goals 54 seconds apart in the second. Jerred Smithson passed the puck to Halischuk in the slot, and Halischuk used his skate to knock it back to his stick before beating Mason between the legs. Hornqvist scored his second of the night unassisted with a backhander from the right circle at 2:42.
Brassard scored on with a slap shot from the right circle at 18:32, the only one of Columbus' 22 second-period shots to beat Rinne.
"Peks made it look pretty easy so I didn't know they had that many," Nashville defenseman Shane O'Brien said. "We lean on him a little too much at times this year, but I think he's the best in the world. We're lucky to have him."
Columbus coach Scott Arniel said his Blue Jackets had probably four quality chances in the first couple minutes of the second only to have three turnovers with the puck finding the net. He credited Nashville's defense with coming up despite all the time they spent in front of Rinne.
"At the end of the day, we only scored one goal. He stopped us 44 times, and we lost another hockey game. We talked about trying to stop the bleeding in this rink and against this team," Arniel said. "We did lots of good things but certainly not enough."
Kostitsyn, Nashville's other 20-goal scorer, added some insurance by beating Mason with 7:35 left in regulation.
Material from team media and wire services was used in this report