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Before Friday, it had been more than 30 months since the Columbus Blue Jackets last earned a regulation win over the Nashville Predators.
It seems coach Ken Hitchcock's club has different plans for this season's series.
After a long stretch of futility against their Central Division rivals, the Blue Jackets will try to beat the Predators for the second straight night on Saturday when the teams complete a home-and-home set in Nashville, where Columbus has lost eight straight.
In one of the NHL's more bizarre storylines over the past two seasons, the Predators came one shootout loss from sweeping 16 straight against the Blue Jackets.
Their dominance was as strong as ever late last season, when Nashville goalie Dan Ellis earned consecutive shutouts in a pair of March victories, stopping all 79 shots in those games - his first two appearances against Columbus.
But with Ellis on the bench to start Friday's game, the Blue Jackets (2-2-0) wasted no time reversing their fortunes, taking a 3-0 first-period lead against backup Pekka Rinne. Columbus rookies Nikita Filatov and Jake Voracek set a franchise record for the fastest two goals, scoring eight seconds apart late in the first period to chase Rinne.
Rick Nash's second goal of the game gave the Blue Jackets a 4-0 edge, and Columbus held off a Nashville rally for a 5-3 win - its first in regulation against the Predators (2-3-0) since April 3, 2006.
Nashville's streak of 16 straight games with at least a point against the Blue Jackets had been the longest active run in any NHL series.
"I know a lot of past times were tough and they obviously dominated the series and that counts for something; good for them," said Columbus defenseman Mike Commodore, another newcomer who signed with the Blue Jackets in the offseason. "But as far as I'm concerned ... I really don't care."
For Columbus' holdovers, the win meant a bit more.
"It's nice anytime you get a win against those guys," forward Jason Chimera said. "No matter how you look at it, you can say it doesn't bother you, but it's always in the back of your mind."
The Blue Jackets' relief was tempered by the loss of goalie Pascal Leclaire, who left the game in the third period after stopping a shot with the palm of his blocker hand. X-rays were negative, but Leclaire won't play Saturday.
That means Fredrik Norrena - 0-8-1 with a 2.83 goals-against average in his career against the Predators - will likely start. But Columbus could go with Dan LaCosta, who was brought up on emergency recall after posting four victories in four games with Syracuse of the AHL.
The Blue Jackets are hoping they've turned a corner against the Predators, and Nashville coach Barry Trotz said he expects "the intensity will get ramped up" on Saturday.
But Columbus' struggles in Nashville are glaring. Hitchcock's team is 4-17-1 with a tie all-time at Sommet Center, including an 0-7-1 record the last two seasons there. Its offense also has scored just 11 goals in the last eight games in Nashville.
The Blue Jackets were just 14-22-5 on the road in 2007-08, dropping their last seven games outside of Ohio. They went 1-2 on a season-opening road trip this month, failing to score an even-strength goal in losses at Phoenix and San Jose.
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