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Columbus Blue Jackets clinch their first-ever NHL playoff spot

CHICAGO - 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 need 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 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 ended.

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 post-season appearance since 2002 and only their second in 11 seasons.

"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 out final goal, our final destination. That's home ice."

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

Notes: The Blackhawks set a single-season attendance record of 835,972 on Wednesday night with a crowd of 21,536, their 42th straight sellout at the United Center. The record total does not include the 40,818 who attended the NHL Winter Classic, played by the Blackhawks and Detroit on New Year's Day 2009 at Wrigley Field. ... Columbus D Rostislav Klesla missed his fifth game with a strained oblique muscle, LW Kristian Huselius missed his second with concussion-like symptoms and LW Fredrik Modin missed his 15th because of a sprained knee. All three are listed as day-to-day. ... Chicago RW Patrick Sharp sat out his third game because of a lower-body injury.



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