COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Roman Josi scored 3:24 into overtime and the Nashville Predators tightened their hold on a playoff spot with a 4-3 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday night.
Emil Bemstrom scored three goals in the third to rally Columbus from a 3-0 deficit before Nashville’s captain ended it with his second goal of the night.
“Being up 3-0 in the third, you want to bring it home but it didn’t happen for us tonight,” Josi said. “It was huge for our (us) to regroup in overtime and start fresh. It’s a tie game. Both teams have the same chance. It doesn’t matter what happened in the game.”
The Predators are dueling with Dallas for the Central Division’s fourth playoff spot and increased their lead to four points with the Stars’ overtime loss to Florida on Monday night. Nashville has three games left, and the Stars have four.
Filip Forsberg and Ryan Johansen each had a goal and an assist, and Juuse Saros had 30 saves for Nashville.
“This is the best time of the year. This is great,” Forsberg said. “You want to play these type of games. You want to play these games because they mean so much.”
Elvis Merzlikins had 34 saves for Columbus.
After a scoreless first period, the Predators got on the board at 9:01 of the second when a falling Forsberg swatted in a rebounded puck.
Nashville tallied again 2 1/2 minutes later on a power play, with Johansen putting back a rebound in front of the net. The Preds made it 3-0 late in the second with the prettiest shot of the evening, a heavy one-timer from the high slot by Josi.
The Blue Jackets rallied in the third behind Bemstrom, who had never had two goals in a game, let alone a hat trick. They were also his first goals of the season.
He got credit for his first after a video replay showed his batted puck going in off the bar. Then his snipe from the left circle went over Saros’ shoulder on the near side to make it 3-2 at at 7:26. He got his third on a power play — from the same spot — to tie the game at 15:07.
The Blue Jackets, who have lost two straight and 10 of 11, are trying to finish out of the basement after making the playoffs the last four seasons. With injuries to key players and a sell-off at the trade deadline, they’re putting responsibility on young players like Bemstrom who may form the foundation of next season’s retooled team.
“It just gets old,” Columbus coach John Tortorella said. “That’s 12 of them for us where we haven’t been able to do it in overtime or a shootout. It’s just frustrating. I’m happy we answered, happy for the kids, Elvis gives us a chance. We play a lot of good minutes, but it’s just the same thing, losing in OT.”
BEMMER IN THE BOOKS
According to STATS, Bemstrom became the first player in NHL history to go 15 or more games without a goal to start a season and then score his first three goals all in one period. Bemstrom missed 21 games with a lower-body injury before returning on Saturday.
“If you pan the bench after he scores his goals, you’ll see how much the guys are pulling for him,” Tortorella said. “We haven’t had many fun times this year. That was good. I’m happy for the kid.”
NOT A FAIR FIGHT
Nashville is 6-1-0 against Columbus this season, including wins in four straight games.
Forsberg scored for the first time since coming off injured reserve on Saturday. He missed 17 games. He hadn’t had a goal since March 21 but is still among Nashville’s scoring leaders with 12 goals and 19 assists.
Predators: F Colton Sissons was out with an upper-body injury and is day to day. F Victor Arviddson (undislosed) missed a second game.
Blue Jackets: F Patrik Laine returned after missing Saturday’s game with illness. F Zac Dalpe also was back after missing a game with a lower-body injury.
The teams wrap up a two-game series on Wednesday night.
Follow Mitch Stacy at https://twitter.com/mitchstacy
More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports