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Saad helps Blue Jackets top Blues for third in row

by Craig Merz / NHL.com

COLUMBUS -- The only streak previously associated with the Columbus Blue Jackets was the bad kind, as in eight straight losses to open this season.

But with a 3-1 win against the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday, the Blue Jackets have their first three-game winning streak and are inching closer to .500 with a 7-12-0 record.

Brandon Saad scored the go-ahead goal in the second period and an empty-netter in the Blue Jackets' fifth win in seven games. They are 7-5-0 under coach John Tortorella since he replaced Todd Richards on Oct. 21.

"As we're stringing some wins together, we're feeling more confident and it shows out there," Saad said.

Saad, who arrived June 30 in a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks, is tied with Boone Jenner for the Columbus lead with nine goals. Saad's fourth goal in the past three games provided the insurance with 34 seconds left.

Tortorella said he liked how Columbus managed the game against St. Louis (12-6-1) while mentioning the Blues were playing a night after beating the Winnipeg Jets 3-2 at home.

"You take some of the minutes out of the third period where I thought we got a little antsy, just throwing the puck away, but for the majority of our game that was our strength, going north-south up the ice," Tortorella said.

"I thought we were quicker. It was their back-to-back. That's fine. That's part of the game. I liked the way we played as a team. We didn't give them anything free. We didn't let them transition."

Cody Goloubef scored a first-period goal, and Sergei Bobrovsky made 20 saves for the Blue Jackets. Bobrovsky stopped the final 16 shots after Kevin Shattenkirk scored 7:36 into the game.

St. Louis goaltender Brian Elliott made 20 of his 35 saves in the second period, although Saad got one by him at 4:10 to put Columbus ahead 2-1. The Blues had four shots in the period.

"We didn't have any energy, so I don't know what to chalk it up to," St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock said. "If you don't have any energy, you come in second place everywhere. We came in second place everywhere."

The Blues had won seven previous games when scoring first this season, but the combination of the Blue Jackets' tenacity for the puck and tired legs ended that run.

"They're a hard-working team," St Louis defenseman Jay Bouwmeester said. "That's what you expect on a back-to-back. Against a team like that, you have to keep it simple and wear them down.

"It was one of those games we wish we could have been better, but that's a hard-working group over there. You know what you're going to get. They don't really give you time to make plays or any easy ice."

St. Louis and Columbus traded first goals of the season by defensemen in the 1-1 first period.

Shattenkirk put the Blues ahead off a forecheck that had the Blue Jackets scrambling to clear the zone. Magnus Paajarvi got the puck and passed to the blue line, where Shattenkirk scored during a delayed penalty.

Columbus defenseman Ryan Murray then went to the box on a double-minor for high-sticking, but the Blue Jackets ran their penalty-kill streak to 17. Another successful one in the third made it 18 in a row.

The Blue Jackets tied the game with 3:31 left in the first period. Golubuef's snap shot from the left dot went off the glove of Elliott and fluttered over his left shoulder. The play completed a two-man rush with Murray, a benefit of Tortorella's plan to have the defensemen get more involved.

"He wants us up the ice and contributing to the offense," Goloubef said. "That's what we're trying to do at the right times. If we get a chance, we're going to go."

Saad's deciding goal was a backhand from the right circle. He took a cross-ice pass Murray, spun away from the net, and shot glove side.

"Just a great pass by [Ryan]," Saad said. "The goalie didn't have time to get over so I had time to make a good shot."

Columbus was able to hold the lead, something it was unable to do at the start of the season.

"They pushed pretty hard," St. Louis defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. "We had a tough time getting out of [our] zone. It's not easy to play in your D zone all night."

Columbus right wing Jared Boll played his 500th NHL game, all with the Blue Jackets.

"It makes it that much better with a win," he said. "That's a good hockey team we beat there. We played the right way. We had a little letup there in the first and I thought we responded."

St. Louis center Jori Lehtera left the game with 8:27 remaining in the first period with an upper-body injury. He got tangled up with Saad and Saad's stick hit him in the face. There was no penalty.

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