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Johansen's OT goal lifts Blue Jackets past Coyotes

by Craig Merz

COLUMBUS -- The crowd in Nationwide Arena chanted "CBJ! CBJ!" and didn't want to leave the Columbus Blue Jackets' home finale Tuesday night.

Thanks to Ryan Johansen's overtime goal, they may be back soon for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Johansen's 32nd goal at 3:33 of the extra period gave the Blue Jackets a 4-3 win against the Phoenix Coyotes and moved Columbus within two points of its second postseason appearance in 13 seasons.

"It means so much more if we get in the postseason and do some damage there," Johansen said.

Columbus (41-31-7) remained in the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. The Blue Jackets need two points from their remaining three games to clinch a postseason berth.

Phoenix (36-28-15) fell to 0-2-3 in its past five games, but the Coyotes remain in the hunt for a Western Conference wild card. They trail the Dallas Stars by two points with three games remaining for each team.

"We're incredibly disappointed," Phoenix captain Shane Doan said. "We wanted two points."

The Coyotes got the tying goal by defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson with 14.6 seconds left in regulation to earn a valuable point.

Boone Jenner, Mark Letestu and Blake Comeau had the other goals for Columbus. James Wisniewski had two assists, including the pass that sprung Johansen down the left side for the game-winner.

As usual, nothing came easy for Columbus. Martin Erat and Shane Doan gave the Coyotes a 2-1 lead after two periods before Letestu evened the score.

Comeau then put Columbus up 3-2 with 6:18 left in the third. He gathered the puck along the left wall in the neutral zone and skated to the circle before snapping a shot that Phoenix goalie Thomas Greiss (26 saves) couldn't glove. Artem Anisimov got his second assist of the game on Comeau's fifth goal.

"I pulled up," Comeau said. "I was looking for a trailer there for a little bit, then I didn't see anybody so I fired on net as hard as I could."

Greiss should have made the save, but he redeemed himself with less than three minutes left when he made a glove save on Johansen's point-blank one-timer.

"He made an unbelievable save with about three minutes left to keep it 3-2 to give us a chance to get a point," Doan said. "That was a world-class save. The only reason we were in it at times is because he made some huge saves."

With Greiss pulled for an extra attacker, Ekman-Larsson scored the tying goal on a shot from inside the blue line through traffic against goalie Sergei Bobrovsky (29 saves). Ekman-Larsson's 15th goal was preceded by a faceoff win after Columbus was called for icing with 36.1 seconds left.

Ekman-Larsson said it was desperation time.

"Everybody in this locker room wants to win," he said. "We work so hard every game. We have to keep pushing."

Ekman-Larsson's goal marked the second time in three games that the Blue Jackets surrendered a late goal. The Chicago Blackhawks scored the winner Friday with 3.9 seconds left in the third after also winning an offensive-zone draw.

"It could have been one of those 'oh no' moments, but credit to the guys because we went out and found a way to win the game," Columbus coach Todd Richards said. "The response on the bench was real positive. It was the coaches saying it and the players saying it."

Comeau said the talk before the start of overtime was to forget about what had just happened and focus on getting the second point.

"We did say on the bench that they're a Western Conference team and that point didn't do too much damage to us," he said. "We just wanted to come out with a strong effort."

It took Johansen a little more than 3 1/2 minutes to give the Blue Jackets the extra point.

"(Wisniewski) made a great pass up to me," he said. "I just picked far side, and it happened to go in."

Comeau is no longer surprised by anything Johansen does.

"Joey's been a monster for us all year, scoring some big goals," he said of the 21-year-old center. "He thrives in those moments. He wants to be a No. 1 center like he has been for us all year. You've got to step up and be that guy in key moments, and he's done that this year."

Phoenix coach Dave Tippett called the game a "roller coaster" and lamented the giveaways that led to the Columbus goals, including the winner.

"I thought our effort was really strong. Our execution, it was a choppy game," he said. "Unfortunately, the turnover in overtime was kind of the story of the game.

"In tight hockey games there's little plays that really matter. Some of the turnovers we had ended up in the back of our net, and we couldn't capitalize enough when we found turnovers."

Columbus plays Wednesday against the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center in a game postponed March 10 after Dallas forward Rich Peverley collapsed on the Dallas bench due to a cardiac event.

The teams will play a full 60 minutes of regulation time, plus any potential overtime and shootout, but the Blue Jackets will retain the 1-0 lead on a Nathan Horton goal prior to when Peverley collapsed.

Horton is unlikely to play because he reinjured himself during the second period Tuesday.

Phoenix's last road game is Thursday against the Nashville Predators before it plays its final two at Arena.

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