The coach and captain credited Chris Stewart’s toughness for turning the tide in the Blues favor.
It culminated with David Backes scoring 22 seconds into overtime on a breakaway that completed St. Louis’ rally from a two-goal deficit for a 4-3 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday night.
St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock said Backes’ goal was nice, but they never would have gotten there without Stewart.
”Chris Stewart showed a lot of guts and courage,” Hitchcock said. ”He got into a hell of a fight. His hand was sore. He ends up scoring the tying goal. He gave us a real inspiration.”
Vladimir Tarasenko scored twice, and after a bout with Dalton Prout late in the second period, Stewart tied it with 6:27 remaining for St. Louis. The Blues entered tied for the fewest regulation losses in the league with six, and have now won three straight and four of five. Brenden Morrow added two assists and Jaroslav Halak made 30 saves.
”Stewie coming back after a big fight to score the tying goal, shows a lot of what he’s about,” said Backes, the captain.
On the winner, Columbus lost the puck at its blue line. Backes took it, fended off Fedor Tyutin on a delayed penalty call then deked Mike McKenna, calmly scoring with a high shot.
”I didn’t get a very good read on where his hands were going with the puck,” said McKenna, who finished with 27 saves. ”It’s frustrating. We were right there and played well enough to get a win tonight.”
Backes said it served as a little bit of redemption for a team performance that was not very good.
”I just tried to take it to the net and found a little bit of area there and was lucky to get it through,” Backes said of his 16th.
Tyutin, Artem Anisimov and Ryan Johansen scored for Columbus, which came out flying to take a 3-1 lead after the first period. It was a tough loss for the Blue Jackets, who had won four of five, jelling around their backup goalies with last season’s Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovksy on the shelf.
Third stringer and St. Louis native McKenna was back in net for the second straight game, making his first start since 2010 while playing for New Jersey, which was also against the Blues. On Thursday, in a 4-2 win at the New York Rangers, he stopped 17 of 18 shots in relief of an injured Curtis McElhinney.
But in this one, the Blue Jackets and McKenna couldn’t hold down the fort.
”We had opportunities and that might be the most disappointing thing,” said Columbus coach Todd Richards, who lost his first game (36-1) when leading after two periods since taking over in 2009. ”I think we played hard for 60 plus minutes and it wasn’t good enough. We had opportunities to put the game away and we kept them around.”
Trailing 3-2 to start the third period, St. Louis pulled even after Nick Foligno and Mark Letestu couldn’t convert on breakaway chances. Seconds after Letestu fired high into the glass, a rebound off McKenna into traffic found Stewart down low. He wasted no time converting his seventh at 13:33.
Tarasenko staked St. Louis to the early lead. Catching a fortuitous carom off Prout and with McKenna leaning toward the initial play, he scored from the slot at 4:10 of the first period on the Blues’ second shot.
Columbus answered with three goals in just under five minutes.
Blake Comeau powered his way around Kevin Shattenkirk and slid a short pass to near the crease where Anisimov chipped home his ninth at 8:49. Tyutin followed two minutes later with a blast from the point for his third after a hard Blue Jackets’ forecheck led to a St. Louis turnover.
”Not our first period that we like to play,” Backes said. ”We had to dig deep and get two points somehow.”
Then things heated up after the whistle with Columbus on the power play. Matt Calvert fought Ian Cole near the Blues goal while Barret Jackman and Folingo squared off. Cole took an extra roughing penalty giving the Blue Jackets a two-man advantage. Johansen cashed in 8 seconds later at the left dot, taking Brandon Dubinsky’s feed across the circles, and firing the puck past Halak for his team-leading 12th goal.
St. Louis pressed the issue early in the second period but McKenna made several nice saves, including one with his leg pad on Vladimir Sobotka.
Tarasenko finally broke through for St. Louis, notching his second and 11th of the season, snapping a screened shot from the left circle on the power play at 8:33.
The teams had a combined eight minor penalties in the period with St. Louis whistled for five of them. Halak stoned Foligno from point-blank range late in the period with the Blue Jackets on another two-man advantage.
”We had good early and then bad for a long stretch and then we started to come on again,” Hitchcock said. ”Every part of our game we had lots of good and bad throughout the hockey game.”
NOTES: Richards said injured F Marian Gaborik (sprained knee) and D James Wisniewski (upper body) may return next week. RW Nathan Horton continues to progress in his rehab after having shoulder surgery in July. … The Blue Jackets added Jeremy Smith to their roster on emergency recall from their AHL affiliate to be McKenna’s back up. … McKenna, who played for St. Louis’ AHL affiliate last season, has played in 19 games in the NHL with New Jersey, Tampa Bay and Columbus, going 5-9-2. His father is an off-ice official and scorer for the Blues. … Johansen extended his career-high points streak to eight games, totaling four goals and six assists. … St. Louis improved to 11-3 versus the Eastern Conference this season. … The Blue Jackets had won four in a row at home.