WINNIPEG - The Columbus Blue Jackets found some answers after a poor first period. Winnipeg Jets coach Claude Noel continues to scour his team's roster for solutions.
The Jackets provided Noel with more questions in a 6-3 win against the Jets on Saturday. The Blue Jackets trailed 1-0 after one period but took command by scoring four times in the first 9:07 of the second, capped by Boone Jenner's penalty-shot goal.
Columbus won its third straight game while Winnipeg lost its fifth in a row.
Noel overhauled his lineup this week in hopes of arresting his team's slump. Defenseman Dustin Byfuglien, who began the game tied with Bryan Little for the team lead with 34 points, moved to the top forward line. Rookie Eric O'Dell moved to the second line to replace injured left wing Evander Kane, and U.S. Olympian Blake Wheeler, the team leader with 16 goals, moved to the third line to spark slumping Devin Setoguchi.
Instead, the Jets (19-23-5) fell apart after a good first period. They've allowed four or more goals in each game of the losing streak and sit last in the Central Division.
"I think we had a good start, a few things go the other way, frustration sets in and we let it get the best of us," captain Andrew Ladd said. "It just continued to spiral after that."
The win moved the Blue Jackets (21-20-4) over .500 for the first time since Oct. 10 when they were 2-1-0. The Blue Jackets also moved within two points of the final Stanley Cup Playoff berth in the Eastern Conference.
Mark Letestu picked up his third and fourth goals of the season while Cam Atkinson contributed his 13th and Nick Foligno added his 12th. Jenner also scored in the third period and has eight goals this season. James Wisniewski and Derek MacKenzie each had two assists.
"That's our main goal -- to get into the playoffs," Foligno said. "We've got to continue to win more games to get ourselves as much over .500 as possible. Our goal is not complete, we're not satisfied and we have to play like that."
O'Dell, whom Noel moved to the second line with first-year center Mark Scheifele and Michael Frolik, scored his first NHL goal. Tobias Enstrom scored his fifth and Little broke an 11-game goalless streak with his 15th.
Curtis McElhinney, who gave starter Sergei Bobrovsky the night off after a 36-save shutout against the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday, stopped 28 shots for Columbus. Winnipeg's Ondrej Pavelec made 20 saves.
Despite the win, Columbus coach Tod Richards wasn't happy with his team's slow start.
"We've got to start playing full games," Richards said. "We relied on our goaltender a few times too many. He made some great saves for us, some timely saves. We have to be ready to start games."
O'Dell gave the Jets a 1-0 lead 4:32 into the game, stuffing a loose puck into the net after McElhinney failed to secure the carom of Keaton Ellerby's slap shot.
But after a first period in which they managed six shots and a chat with Richards, the Blue Jackets regrouped.
"I had a lot to say after the first, actually," Richards said of his first-intermission discussion inside the Columbus dressing room.
The words from Richards reached his players.
"We were disappointed in our first period, just the pace that we were playing at," Foligno said. "We didn't really have a pushback, we really didn't generate a forecheck and they were all over us. It really wasn't anything they were doing. They're good team and they work really hard, but it was just because we were sitting back and allowing them to get so much speed."
The Blue Jackets went right to work and tied the game 36 seconds into the second period. Winnipeg received the game's first three power plays, but Letestu finished a 2-on-1 rush nine seconds into the Blue Jackets' third shorthanded situation.
Columbus took its first lead of the game 3:39 later when Atkinson converted a give-and-go with passes from Wisniewski and Ryan Murray. Atkinson went eight games without a goal but has scored in three straight games.
"You feel like you're in a deep pit and trying to trying to crawl and scratch your way out of it," Ladd said. "You get a good start and all of a sudden, bang-bang, there are two pucks in your net and maybe panic sets in a little bit."
The Jets' downward spiral continued as Foligno made it 3-1 when he stuffed Ryan Johansen's centering pass from behind the Winnipeg net through Pavelec's pads at 8:26. Jenner followed with his penalty-shot goal after Winnipeg defenseman Adam Pardy pulled him down on a breakaway.
"We started to skate," said Richards of the difference in the second period. "We started to play. We got more involved in the game."
For the Jets, the second period continued a frustrating stretch in what has been a challenging season.
"The game certainly unraveled in the second period on mistakes that were stuff that I've never seen before," Noel said. "And then the third period was the third period. Some of the stuff we saw was a little wild. Some of the breakdowns, we've never done this stuff all year."
Enstrom cut the margin to 4-2 with a heavy left-circle through traffic in front of McElhinney at 11:55 of the second period. Jenner restored the Blue Jackets' three-goal lead 4:08 into the third period before Little made it 5-3 at 5:55. Letestu's second of the game finished the scoring.
"That's the team that we expect to be every night," Foligno said as Columbus prepares for the second half of the season. "We're still trying to find our way and doing the right things for 60 minutes. But when we do play like that, it's fun to watch."
But down the hallway, Little admitted that the Jets are having difficulty maintaining their confidence.
"It's not easy right now," Little said. "It's tough to stay positive, and it's kind of hurting everyone's confidence right now."
Noel will continue to attempt to find solutions.
"Right now, adversity really is the enemy, and we're not dealing it with very well," Noel said. "There's going to be no easy way to get out of this thing."
"There are going to be two things for me. We're going to have to work our way out of it, and our focus is going to have to be excellent, and that's every day -- practice and games."