Jackets clinch first playoff berth, edge Blackhawks

CHICAGO (AP) — Rick Nash put Columbus in the playoffs for the
first time, and Fedor Tyutin capped the Blue Jackets’ big night
with the shootout winner.

After Nash scored a late goal to force overtime and give the
Blue Jackets the final point they needed to clinch a playoff
spot, Tyutin scored the lone goal in the shootout in Columbus’
4-3 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday night.

Columbus, which entered the NHL in 2000-01, was the only active
team that hadn’t made the playoffs. Against Chicago, the Blue
Jackets overcame 2-0 and 3-2 deficits.

Nash scored his 39th goal with 5:30 left in regulation to tie it
at 3 and set up overtime. Antoine Vermette also scored and
assisted on Jason Williams’ goal in regulation.

The Blue Jackets earned the one point they needed to qualify for
the playoffs by reaching overtime.

“To get that one point was huge, to come back after being down
2-0,” Nash said. “To get the win was even more important.
We’re going to try to win these last two games to keep our
position in the standings. I don’t know if it’s quite sunk in
yet. We’re so used to playing out the season.”

For the Blue Jackets, the milestone had additional meaning.
John H. McConnell, the Blue Jackets’ founder and majority owner,
died in April 2008 at age 84.

“It’s great,” Nash said. “We did it for ourselves, but most of
all we did it for Mr. Mac. We know he’s up there watching. I’m
sure he’s sitting in his chair and has a cigar in his mouth.”

“I’m proud of the guys,” Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock said. “I
wasn’t happy about the first period. I thought we were light on
the puck. In the second and third period, we came back and
managed the play.”

After Nash tied it with what Hitchcock called “the biggest goal
in the history of the franchise,” Hitchcock called on an
unlikely shooter in Tyutin as his second in the shootout. Nash
had hit the post on Columbus’ first attempt.

“We’ve seen him in practice,” Hitchcock said. “He’s got three
or four moves. I just felt like we needed to change things up.”

Brent Seabrook, Dave Bolland and Martin Havlat scored in
regulation for the Blackhawks, whose four-game winning streak

Chicago needs one point to clinch the fourth seed in the Western
Conference and home-ice advantage in the first round of the
playoffs. The Blackhawks will make their first postseason
appearance since 2002 and only their second in 11 seasons.

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“It would have been nice to get both points tonight,” Chicago
coach Joel Quenneville said. “We definitely left a valuable
point on the table. I think we started well, but Columbus is a
desperate team that fought back hard.”

Chicago will close the regular season with a home-and-home
series against Detroit.

“We haven’t accomplished anything yet,” Quenneville said. “We
haven’t reached our final goal, our final destination. That’s
home ice.”

Columbus goalie Steve Mason made 24 saves. Chicago’s Nikolai
Khabibulin stopped 19 shots in his fifth straight start and the
10th in the last 11 games.

Chicago led, 2-0, after the first period.

Khabibulin made a blocker save on Nash’s penalty shot 8:59 in to
keep it scoreless. Nash was awarded the attempt after being
hooked from behind by Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith on a

Seabrook opened the scoring with a power-play breakaway with
6:12 left in the first. The goal ended Chicago’s 0-for-23 slump
with the man advantage.

After serving an interference call, Seabrook sprinted from the
penalty box to center ice. He took a long pass from Brian
Campbell, skated in alone and beat Mason with a low shot between
the pads.

Bolland was credited with a goal with 21 seconds left in the

After taking Kris Versteeg’s pass on a 2-on-1 break, Bolland
skated wide to the right side of the net as Mason came out to
challenge. Bolland’s centering pass drifted behind Mason and
into the slot, then was knocked into the net by Nash sliding on
the ice as he tried to catch up with the play.

Vermette and Williams scored 2:23 apart early in the second to
tie it.

After Khabibulin had made saves on Raffi Torres and Nash,
Vermette converted a second rebound at 5:37 to cut it to 2-1.
Williams tied it, finishing a 2-on-none break with Vermette.

Havlat restored Chicago’s lead at 3-2 with 2:17 left in the
second on a rising shot from the right circle that ticked in off
the left post. Patrick Kane’s centering pass from below the
goal line set him up.

Nash tied it at 3 with 5:30 left in the third, when he slipped
in alone from the left side of the net and beat Khabibulin with
a backhander. Chicago outshot Columbus, 5-0, in overtime.
Mason made two close-in saves in the final seconds.