Gabriel Landeskog jumped once to score his first NHL goal.
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Then he jumped for joy.
Landeskog scored with 40 seconds left on a deflection off his skate and Matt Duchene’s shootout goal was the difference in the Colorado Avalanche’s 3-2 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday night before 8,986, the smallest crowd to watch a regular-season game at Nationwide Arena.
It was a memorable night for the 18-year-old Landeskog, the second pick in last summer’s draft.
”I didn’t know if I got it. I didn’t know if it went off something else after me,” the Swede said, grinning. ”I jumped and it hit my skate and I saw that the guys were cheering. I just started jumping.”
It was another disappointing ending for the Blue Jackets, who pumped up the hype and their salary cap by trading for goal-scorer Jeff Carter and signing defenseman James Wisniewski. They’re off to the worst start in their 11 seasons, 0-3-1.
”It’s obviously not the way we wanted to start the year,” said Carter, acquired in a blockbuster deal with Philadelphia. ”There was a lot of excitement coming into the season about the team. The fans showed that on the first night. If we expect fans to come out and cheer us on and pay their hard-earned money to come out here, we need to start putting wins on the board.”
In the shootout, Milan Hejduk matched the goal of Rick Nash, who had a goal and an assist for Columbus. Shooting second, Duchene beat Steve Mason through the leg pads.
”I just tried to open him up and tried to see if I could find some daylight,” Duchene said. ”I was able to slip it between his legs.”
Semyon Varlamov, who finished with 31 saves, slid to stop Carter’s shot to secure the victory.
”I like the fact that we were resilient,” Colorado coach Joe Sacco said. ”It’s hard to win in this league. We found a way to come away with two points tonight.”
T.J. Galiardi also scored for Colorado, while Radek Martinek had the other Columbus goal.
The Blue Jackets were 0 for 4 on the power play and are 0 for 20 on the season with a man advantage.
It was the second game in three nights — both at home — that the Blue Jackets led by a goal in the third period and couldn’t hang on. They were outshot 16-1 in the third period.
”We got back on our heels,” coach Scott Arniel said. ”We got a lead and we were trying to protect the lead and we were a little bit afraid of making a mistake.”
Martinek provided not only the first goal by a Columbus defenseman this season but his first in a Blue Jackets uniform — on their only shot of the third period. An offseason free-agent signing, he was positioned at the right point when he took a pass from Vinny Prospal, who was near the corner boards. Martinek’s hard one-timer sailed over Varlamov’s shoulder on the stick side for a 2-1 lead.
But the Blue Jackets went the last 18:44 of the third period and the next 22:36 including overtime without a shot as the Avalanche stepped up the pressure on Mason. He was up to the task, twice diving onto the ice to cover loose pucks in the crease.
The Avalanche finally broke through in the final minute of regulation. Landeskog, at No. 2 the highest draft pick ever for the Avalanche, notched the goal (in his third game) on a redirect. Defenseman Jan Hejda, who the Blue Jackets declined to re-sign in the offseason, fired a slap shot from the left point into heavy congestion in front that included two teammates and two defensemen clogging the ice in front of Mason. The puck went in off Landeskog’s skate.
”Finally! And it was such a big game,” Landeskog said. ”It’s a big road trip for us. It’s huge for team bonding as well to get those two points. You always dream about scoring in a crucial moment of a game, especially on the road like this in the third game of the season. So, it was a huge relief for me, and for the team as well.”
NOTES: The arena wasn’t very full but the press box sure was: There were 13 scouts from nine teams (other than the teams involved) at the game. … The Blue Jackets had six giveaways to none for the Avalanche in the opening period. … Mason stopped 30 shots in regulation and overtime.