Two Blue Jackets who were previously filling up the injury list are now padding the stat column – and helping their team win in the process.
Curtis Sanford – back from a groin strain – stopped 27 shots and Jeff Carter – healthy after a foot injury – scored twice Monday night as Columbus beat Calgary 4-1 at Nationwide Arena. Columbus (5-13-2) is on a winning streak for the first time in 42 games.
Antoine Vermette and Rick Nash added a goal each, and Vinny Prospal notched three assists. But the real story was Sanford, who has been a steadying influence after Steve Mason's recent struggles.
"He came in there after getting an injury and working his way back and got a chance to play," said Carter, who scored just his second and third of the season Monday, about his goalie. "He's done everything we've asked of him. It's been good to see."
Calgary (8-10-1) failed to build on the momentum of Friday’s 5-2 win against Chicago.
The Blue Jackets opened the game with heavy pressure, throwing Calgary off kilter with a heavy forecheck.
Carter opened the scoring at 3:01 of the first on a sublime individual play. Picking up the puck in his own zone, he raced down the left boards into the Flames' zone and, freezing Henrik Karlsson with a look to an onrushing Nash, whipped a wrister into the goalie’s far post from beyond the circle.
Vermette followed three minutes later with his second of the season, adding another well-taken goal to go with Carter's gem. Karlsson (26 saves) made three quick saves during a scrum in the crease, but the puck eventually slipped to Vermette, who was waiting at the right post. Vermette grabbed the puck from behind the goal-line, pulled it through his own legs then backhanded it under Karlsson's glove.
The Flames settled after Vermette's goal – finishing with an 11-10 advantage in shots – but couldn't find the back of the net.
"You expect more," Flames coach Brent Sutter said of his inconsistent club. "I guess that's why we're a team that wins one, loses one because we're having a hard time holding that emotion, that intensity you need to have to win hockey games in the National Hockey League on a game-to-game basis."
The Jackets got their third – and Carter's second – when three key players who haven't skated together much this season combined on the power play. After James Wisniewski, who missed the first eight games to suspension, ripped a shot, Prospal – the team points leader with 18 – slipped it to Carter, who beat Karlsson from 10 feet out.
"We had talked about chemistry and getting the whole team together and having everybody out there on the same page," Blue Jackets coach Scott Arniel said. "It's starting to evolve into that."
Mark Giordano pulled one back for Calgary on the Flames' first power play at 9:07 of the second. Vermette was slow getting back into position on the left, allowing Giordano the space to skate and rip a screamer that pinged in off the far post and into the high slot. But that was as close as Calgary would get, as Columbus killed a late-second power play then iced the game thanks to a few more Sanford stops.
"They kept on coming right to the end," Sanford said. "We stayed on our toes."
Typically the Jackets' best offensive player, Nash broke a seven-game goal drought with an empty-netter 18:28, his fifth tally of the season.