EditorsNote: Adds Preds’ playoff opponent
Filip Forsberg recorded his fifth career hat trick as the regular-season champion Nashville Predators tuned up for the playoffs with a 4-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets in NHL action Saturday night in Nashville.
Nashville will face the Colorado Avalanche in the first round of the playoffs. The Predators, who claimed the Presidents’ Trophy with 117 points, staked themselves to a 3-0 first-period lead at Bridgestone Arena.
Nashville’s Austin Watson opened the scoring at 7:52 of the opening period. After Blue Jackets forward Matt Calvert lost an edge at his blue line, Mike Fisher grabbed the loose puck and entered the zone before making a drop pass to Watson, who ripped a top-corner shot from the right faceoff dot over the shoulder of Blue Jackets goaltender Joonas Korpisalo.
Forsberg doubled the lead with the first of consecutive power-play goals. He was alone in the slot and set up by Scott Hartnell to bury his first of the night at 11:04 of the opening frame.
Forsberg then scored with one second on the clock in the period to make it a three-goal edge. Craig Smith, who seconds earlier hit the post, fed the pass that Forsberg converted again from the slot.
The Predators star capped his night with an empty-netter with 40 seconds remaining to give him 26 goals on the season. He’s collected 30 points in 30 games since returning from an injury Feb. 1.
Pekka Rinne stopped 22 of 23 shots in the Predators net before giving way to Juuse Saros for the third period. Saros made eight saves.
Josh Anderson and Brandon Dubinsky responded for the Blue Jackets, who — despite losing only twice in regulation time in their last 17 games (13-2-2) — tumbled to a wild-card spot and will face the Metropolitan Division-champion Washington Capitals in the first round of the playoffs.
Anderson put the Blue Jackets on the board when he converted a partial breakaway at 7:55 of the second period. Dubinsky’s short-handed goal at 7:20 of the third period made it a 3-2 affair.
Korpisalo made 23 saves in the loss.
— Field Level Media