Four consecutive opponents have suited up against the Blue Jackets in dire need of points to bolster their playoff aspirations. Those three clubs (Phoenix twice) have collected exactly zero points.
The Blue Jackets found themselves in a spirited, combative hockey game tonight against the Los Angeles Kings, and got the game-winning goal from former King Jack Johnson en route to a 3-1 before 14,306 at Nationwide Arena. It marked the fourth consecutive win for Columbus – a season-high – and in the process, halted a hot Los Angeles club that had won four of its previous five games.
Without top defenseman Fedor Tyutin and one of their most energetic players in Derek MacKenzie, the Blue Jackets forged ahead and picked up right where they left off against Phoenix on Tuesday. They opened the scoring at 9:14 of the first period, when James Wisniewski ripped a slap shot from the right point that was tipped into the top shelf by Mark Letestu for a 1-0 lead.
Derek Dorsett fumbled the puck at the offensive blue line on a Columbus power play three minutes later, and Anze Kopitar marched in on a breakaway with Derick Brassard the lone man back. Kopitar out-muscled Brassard and poked his 20th goal of the season behind Steve Mason at 12:22 for a 1-1 tie. Columbus would finish the first period with a 2-1 lead after Jack Johnson crept in from the point on a broken play, and beat Jonathan Bernier over the shoulder with 8.5 seconds left in the opening period.
Maksim Mayorov and Vinny Prospal had a big hand in pushing the Blue Jackets’ lead to 3-1 early in the second period. Mayorov funneled the puck to the net off the left wing and Prospal set up camp in front of Bernier. Letestu swooped in and poked the loose puck into the net at 3:07 of the second for the final tally of the game.
Mason (who earned the victory) left the game at 11:08 of the second period after a collision with a teammate around the net. Interim head coach Todd Richards said he will be further evaluated over the weekend, and after that, more will be known about his status. Curtis Sanford finished the game and made 13 saves in relief.
The Kings’ bench got a big lift with Kopitar’s shorthanded goal, and it was especially important given their slow start to the game. But they were caught sleeping late in the first period, and Brassard was able to carry the puck freely into the offensive zone. He had the puck poked away, but Johnson was there to rip his 10th of the year into the net and change the game.
Columbus has won four-straight games for the first time since the club won five straight Nov. 17-24, 2010. The club is 9-6-1 the last 16 games after posting a 4-15-2 the previous 21 games.
Letestu snapped a 16-game goalless skid with two goals tonight. The multi-goal game is the second of his NHL career and first since Dec. 8, 2010 vs. Toronto (with Pittsburgh), a span of 80 games. He has points in back-to-back games after being held pointless the previous five games.
Wisniewski picked up an assist on Letestu’s goal. He has tallied 2-4-6 the last 11 games after being held to 1-0-1 the previous seven games. He played 27:43 of ice time tonight and entered the game ranked 16th in the NHL in time on ice average.
Prospal has points in back-to-back games and five of the last eight games after recording two assists on the night. He has 1-8-9 the last eight games after being held to 1-4-5 the previous 18 games. In 25 career games against the Kings, he has 7-14-21.
Jack Johnson has goals in back-to-back games after scoring his 10th of the season tonight. The goals come after he went the previous 15 games without a goal. He also has points in three straight games after being held pointless the prior seven outings. The 10 goals are a career-high and two better than his previous best of eight set in 80 games in 2009-10.
Brassard has points in five-straight games after notching an assist on Johnson’s goal. He has 1-5-6 during that stretch, while registering points in eight of the last 10 (3-7-10). He has collected 10-17-27 the last 35 games after being held to 2-3-5 the first 24 games of the season.
Gillies has points in back-to-back games after recording an assist on MacKenzie’s goal. It was his first assist in 12 games, as he last had a helper Feb. 7 vs. Minnesota. He snapped a 13-game pointless skid with a goal Mar. 3 at Phoenix.
vs. St. Louis Blue
Scottrade Center | St. Louis, Missouri
Saturday, 8 p.m.
TV: FOX Sports Ohio (HD)
Radio: 97.1 The Fan & BlueJackets.com