In the long run, the flu bug was kind to St. Louis Blues center Jason Arnott.
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Just 24 hours after he missed his first game of the season – sidelined by sickness – Arnott triggered a four-goal, third-period rally with the tiebreaking tally to lead the Blues to a 6-4 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday night.
St. Louis won for the fifth time in six games and improved to 13-3-1 at home, tying Detroit for the most home wins. The Blues are 13-2-4 under coach Ken Hitchcock, who took over for the fired Davis Payne on Nov. 6.
The Blues moved into third place in the Western Conference with 42 points after being 14th in the 15-team group on Nov. 7. St. Louis has won its last five against Columbus and improved to 12-1-1 in the previous 14 home meetings with the Blue Jackets.
Alex Steen, Alex Pietrangelo and Patrik Berglund also scored in the third period for St. Louis, which trailed 3-2 after two. T.J. Oshie and Kevin Shattenkirk added goals for the Blues, who have won nine of 11 in St. Louis. Jaroslav Halak (6-7-4) made 28 saves.
The six-goal outburst was the highest of the season for the Blues, who have used a defense-first philosophy to climb up the standings.
”Good teams find ways to win,” Pietrangelo said. ”We had to score six goals to do it and we’re not going to be able to do that every tine out. But it’s good to know we can do it if we have to.”
The Blues scored a season-high four goals in the third period.
”To play like that in the third period was really impressive,” Hitchcock said. ”We sucked it up, found our legs, and really went after them.”
Arnott scored his sixth goal of the season with 13:17 left to give the Blues a 4-3 lead. He watched Saturday’s 2-1 shootout loss at Nashville.
”I felt pretty good. The few days off was well worth it,” Arnott said. ”We stayed in there, stuck to our system in the third period, and that was a huge plus.”
Steen tied it 3-3 with his 11th goal of the season 58 seconds into the third period. He has 10 points in his last 10 games against Columbus.
Pietrangelo gave the Blues a 5-3 lead midway though the third with his fifth goal. Columbus climbed back within a goal when Derick Brassard scored with 4:09 left. But Patrik Berglund scored an empty-net goal with 45 seconds remaining to seal the victory.
”Those first two periods were not up to our standards,” Pietrangelo said. ”We started awfully slow.”
Shattenkirk said it took falling behind for the Blues to pick up the pace.
”We knew we had something left in the tank,” Shattenkirk said. ”We didn’t panic.”
The Blue Jackets had led 3-2 on a goal by Mark Letestu with 1.3 seconds remaining in the second period. Derek Dorsett and Derek MacKenzie also scored for Columbus, which fell to 3-10-2 on the road.
The Blue Jackets outshot St. Louis 11-8 in the second period and scored the only two goals of the frame.
”It was a game of momentum, and unfortunately at the key time, we were on the wrong side of it,” Columbus goalie Steve Mason said.
Dorsett said his team was simply unable to stop the Blues down the stretch.
”We’re a fragile team,” Dorsett said. ”If one thing goes wrong, everything just crumbles on us. We’ve got to be better in the third period, that’s the bottom line.”
NOTES: Columbus LW Vinny Prospal, who has 234 career goals, has never scored against St. Louis in 21 games. … The Blue Jackets have won just seven games in regulation over their last 54, dating to Feb. 25. … Halak is 5-1-4 in his last 10 appearances. … Shattenkirk, a defenseman, led with five shots on goal. … St. Louis improved to 2-6-1 when trailing after two periods. … The Blue Jackets will play seven of their next nine games on the road.