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Preds take care of business but still haven’t clinched…

In Nashville, the Predators held up their end of the bargain. Unfortunately, the Columbus Blue Jackets did not.

In order for the Predators to clinch the playoffs for the sixth time in seven seasons tonight, Columbus needed to beat the Dallas Stars. Instead, the Stars beat the Jackets, 3-0, forcing Nashville to wait at least one more day.

Here in Music City though, Nashville got goals from Matt Halischuk, Mike Fisher, two from Sergei Kostitsyn and two fluky ones from Jordin Tootoo in the 6-3 victory over the Atlanta Thrashers.

Pekka Rinne surrendered three goals on 36 Atlanta shots, improving to 32-21-9 on the season.

The win vaults the Preds into fourth place in the Western Conference. The Los Angeles Kings and the Phoenix Coyotes were both idle tonight and now sit a point behind Nashville. Both teams play each other tomorrow night.

Nashville opened the scoring early in the game on one of the prettiest goals you’ll see. Tootoo got the puck across to Halischuk in front of the net. Halischuk was handcuffed by his defender so, in doing what was necessary, he spun around and blindly hit the puck out of mid-air on net. Atlanta goaltender Chris Mason was hardly expecting it and it found the back of the net to put the home team up 1-0.

In the final minute of the opening frame, the Preds got goals from Kostitsyn and Atlanta’s Nik Antropov. The first one came when Martin Erat carried in to the Atlanta zone and fired a puck on net. Mason thought he had the save when the puck trickled through his pads and into the crease. Antropov, trying to clear it off the line actually knocked it toward the line and that’s when Tootoo gave it the final nudge to make it 2-0.

Then, with less than 0:03 left in the period, Kostitsyn bagged his 21st of the season by roofing a rebound over Mason’s glove hand to make it 3-0 heading into the locker room. The goal extended Kostitsyn’s scoring streak to an incredible 10 games.

When they came back out for the second, the Preds picked up where they left off. Less than 2:00 in, Tootoo got his second goal of the game. And it was just as fluky as the first one, except this one was off his skate. Thrashers winger Tim Stapleton made an attempt to pick-up Tootoo in front but, in doing so, turned him around so it went off his skate and into the net.

But the Preds weren’t done yet. Kostitsyn got his 22nd of the season on a picture-perfect pass from Cody Franson. With Fisher camped out in front demanding Ondrej Pavelec‘s attention, Kostitsyn snuck in backdoor and just tapped the Franson pass home to make it 5-0.

After Atlanta broke Rinne’s shutout bid, Nashville answered back on the power play. Kostitsyn sent a cross-ice feed to Fisher who one-timed it past an out-stretched Pavelec to make it 6-1.

The Thrashers got two meaningless goals from Blake Wheeler and Antropov late in the contest but the damage was done. The Predators had six goals and the fourth place spot in the West.

Nashville will now have two days off before facing off against the Blue Jackets in the regular season home finale on Friday night.

Puck drops at 7:05pm Central.

* In the opening 0:20, we had a catfish thrown on the ice.
* Just when you thought Kostitsyn’s shooting percentage (first in the entire NHL) couldn’t get any better, he scored on 66% of his shots tonight.
* Kostitsyn has 14 points during his 10 game scoring streak.
* Colin Wilson, not exactly known for being a fighter, pummeled Eric Boulton in a third period bout. Wilson looked like he was taking months and months of “Trotz’s dog house” frustration out on his opponent.
* Nashville is now 9-2-1 in their last 12 home games.
* The Predators won their 154th game at home since 2005-06. Only Detroit (158) has more.
* Lost in all the goal scoring was Patric Hornqvist, who picked up three assists.
* Prospects Taylor Beck and Michael Latta, both third round picks in 2009, signed amatuer tryout contracts with the Miwaukee Admirals tonight. Their OHL season came to an end when the Guelph Storm were ousted from the playoffs by the Saginaw Spirit on Sunday night.
* Ryan Ellis, Nashville’s 2009 first round pick, will not be joining the Preds or the Ads just yet. His Windsor Spitfires defeated the Erie Otters in Game 7 of their first round series of the OHL playoffs tonight.

MY THREE STARS (as voted on with 7:40 remaining in regulation):
1) Sergei Kostitsyn (NSH)
2) Jordin Tootoo (NSH)
3) Patric Hornqvist (NSH)

1) Jordin Tootoo (NSH)
2) Sergei Kostitsyn (NSH)
3) Matt Halischuk (NSH)

PHOTO CREDIT: Jeremy K. Gover //