The Nashville Predators picked up another crucial two points over the Dallas Stars in the “magic number” standings with an overtime win in Columbus on Monday night. Roman Josi put home the game winner in extra time, scoring his 2nd goal of the night, and giving Nashville an important 2nd point.

The Preds made it as difficult as possible, though, blowing yet another three goal lead in the 3rd period. Emil Bemstrom picked up a natural hat trick, scoring three goals in a row to tie the game at 3-3. His third goal came with less then five minutes remaining in regulation, with the Preds desperately clinging to the lead, knowing that a regulation win would be more important.

Incidentally at the same time the Preds were blowing a lead to the Blue Jackets, the Stars were coming from behind in Florida. They rallied from two goals down in the final period to tie the Panthers at four goals apiece, sending their game to overtime.

At that moment, it looked like disaster for the Preds: blowing a chance at two points while the Stars were reclaiming two points for themselves.

But then Roman Josi, captain of the Preds, did his thing, taking a pass from Erik Haula at the top of the circle and sending a wrist shot by Columbus goalie Elvis Merzilikins, winning the game.

And then, at almost the exact same time, Alexsander Barkov, captain of the Panthers, scored on the power play in overtime to beat the Stars 5-4.

Two captains in two different states helping to save the day for the Preds.

With that bit of drama now in the rear view mirror, the Nashville Predators can focus on Wednesday night in Columbus, where they can clinch a playoff spot.

How the Preds can clinch playoffs Wednesday

It’s a little complicated, but stick with me here.

At first glance, the magic number for the Preds to clinch is four. They started Monday night with the magic number at seven points, then gained three through the results. Nashville won two, Dallas lost one = three points gained = magic number down to four.

But magic numbers only account for points gained or lost, not how they are gained or lost.

The first tiebreaker in the NHL (after fewer games played) is number of regulation wins. The Preds have 19 regulation wins, the Stars have 16.

Nashville Predators Dallas Stars

The Stars have four games remaining. If the Stars won all four games in regulation, they would finish with 64 points and 20 regulation wins. If the Preds only won two more games and did so via shootouts or overtimes, they would finish with 64 points but only 19 regulation wins. The Stars would win the tiebreaker.

So it’s not as easy as magic number counting: in the above scenario, the Preds gained four points for the magic number, yet still lose to Dallas in the tiebreaker.

Essentially that means while the Preds’ magic number is technically four, the “real” magic number is five, because they would need a 5th point if Dallas results fall a certain way.

Does your head hurt yet?

Bryan Bastin, who writes for On The Forecheck, helped clarify the scenarios here, though I cannot say that it will make your head hurt less:

So what needs to happen for Nashville to clinch on Wednesday?

  • Nashville wins in any fashion (regulation/overtime/shootout) at Columbus

AND

  • Dallas loses in regulation at Tampa

Any other result and Dallas is technically still alive. Nashville’s clinching scenarios are dependent on Dallas losing in some fashion, even as they still control their own destiny to make the playoffs. If Dallas loses in overtime or a shootout, they still gain a point (i.e., magic number goes down by 1), but Nashville also needs to maintain the regulation wins tiebreaker. So a regulation win over Columbus is preferred.

— Featured image via Russell LaBounty/USA TODAY Sports —