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Garon gets 100th NHL win as Jackets edge Flames 3-2

by John Kreiser
A two-game sweep in Alberta has Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock thinking his struggling team may have turned the corner.

Mathieu Garon stopped 21 shots for his 100th NHL win, Antoine Vermette set up Columbus' first two goals and before getting his 100th NHL goal and the Blue Jackets beat the Calgary Flames 3-2 on Friday for their second victory in two nights in Alberta.

The Jackets ended their road losing streak at 13 games with a 4-2 win at Edmonton on Tuesday. Prior to that, they hadn't won away from Nationwide Arena since a 4-1 win at Dallas on Nov. 19.

But Hitchcock said the team he saw in the two wins looked like the one that made the playoffs for the first time in franchise history last spring.

"We're starting to look like last year's team," he said. "We're playing the same way we did most of last year."

The Jackets are still 14th in the West, 10 points out of eighth, but Hitchcock feels his team is more than capable of cracking the top eight.

"You never know, other teams have come from far back," Hitchcock said. "If we can keep playing well and get this thing to .500 then we have the big home schedule in February, March, and April, we can still do some damage." 

Vermette feels the Jackets have to look at the little picture for now -- rather than worrying about how far out they are, they need to focus on winning individual games.

"If you look at the big picture and see how many wins and points you have to get to get in, it could be overwhelming. We just have to take it day by day," he said.

Calgary has lost its last two games after a five-game winning streak. The Flames continue to struggle to score -- they've exceeded three goals just once in 18 games.

"The whole night, we didn't take enough shots, didn't create enough shots or enough chances," captain Jarome Iginla said.

Garon, who got the win against the Oilers, faced only 22 shots -- just five in the final period. Calgary's Rene Bourque fanned on a great opportunity in the final minute after a perfect pass from Iginla put him alone in the slot.

Vermette gave the Jackets a 3-1 lead at 5:22 of the third period when he dunked Raffi Torres' perfect pass behind Curtis McElhinney for his 13th goal of the season. That proved to be the winner when Bourque scored his 15th of the season with 8:01 remaining.

Torres gave Columbus a quick lead when he beat McElhinney 1:25 into the game. Mark Giordano tied it by beating Garon at 15:47, jamming the puck past him while cutting from the left circle to the front of the net.

Jan Hejda put the Jackets ahead to stay when he scored his third goal of the season and second in two nights, taking a feed from Vermette and beating McElhinney with a slapper from the high slot at 11:03 of the second period. 

Flames coach Brent Sutter was frustrated with the mistakes his veteran team continues to make.

"You look at the third goal, it's a 3-on-2 in the third period of a 2-1 hockey game. That should never happen, never. It should never god damn well happen," Sutter said. "A 1-1 hockey game and we don't get pucks out of our zone because we play soft. It's a recurring thing here and it really bothers me."

Material from wire services and team media was used in this report

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