COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – The Columbus Blue Jackets appear to be finally playing up to expectations.
Brandon Saad scored twice to help the Blue Jackets beat the St. Louis Blues 3-1 on Tuesday night for their first three-game winning streak of the season.
Cody Goloubef also scored for Columbus, which has won five of its last seven games.
“As we’re stringing more wins together, we’re feeling more confident,” said Saad, the Blue Jackets’ big offseason acquisition tied for the team lead with nine goals. “It shows out there. We stayed calm, stayed composed. We did a good job finishing them out.”
Sergei Bobrovsky, continuing to recover from his poor start, had 19 saves to improve to 5-1-0 in his last six games.
Kevin Shattenkirk scored for banged-up St. Louis, which beat Winnipeg on Monday but has dropped three of four. Brian Eilliot finished with 35 stops.
“We didn’t have any energy so I don’t know what to chalk it up to,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. “If you don’t have any energy you come in second place everywhere.”
Taking a 2-1 lead into the third period, the Blue Jackets were confident and controlled closing out their second home win in a row and second of the season.
“I just don’t think we gave them anything free,” Columbus coach John Tortorella said. “We didn’t let them transition. The puck was along the wall quite a bit. We did a lot of rotating of the puck. That’s part of what we talked about. We knew the team played last night. We wanted their players to play in their end zone.”
Columbus’ improved penalty kill – now almost in the middle of the pack after being the worst in the league earlier this season – made a big kill early in the period, setting the shut-down tone. They even got a few short-handed looks at the Blues’ net. The Blue Jackets have fought off 18 consecutive power plays.
“We played hard,” Goloubef said. “We played the right way and we came away with a win.”
St. Louis didn’t severely threaten down the stretch, largely kept in their own zone or to the offensive perimeter by the Blue Jackets. Saad sealed it with Elliot pulled for an extra attacker, scoring with 33 seconds left.
In a high-speed opening period, Shattenkirk made it 1-0 at 7:36. Ryan Murray lost possession of the puck on a hard stick check in the high slot. Shattenkirk let go a dipping slap shot that squeezed through Bobrovksy.
At the tail end of the period, defenseman Goloubef tied it on a heads-up, long-distance solo effort. He took advantage of open ice before wristing a heavy shot from the left cirlce. The puck hit off Elliot’s glove and went into the air over his shoulder, then bouncing on the ice and barely over the goal line.
“It was just a clean break out from our zone,” Goloubef said of his first of the season. “I just put my head down and took off.”
Saad gave Columbus a 2-1 lead early in the second period on a stunning, spin-around, backhand shot at 4:10. He took a nice, cross-ice feed from Murray on his forehand, pivoted in the low, right circle and sent a powerful shot above Elliot’s extended glove.
After Saad’s goal, Columbus dominated the period finishing with a 21-3 shots advantage. The chances included dangerous close range tries by Gregory Campbell and Matt Calvert, but Elliot was steady tracking the play, keeping St. Louis in it.
“He gave us a chance after the second period,” Hitchcock said. “It would have been nice to get that second goal for him in the third period.”
NOTES: Columbus RW Jared Boll played his 500th career game. … St. Louis C Jori Lehtera took a high stick to the face from Saad, who has scored in three straight games, in the second period and didn’t return. … The Blue Jackets outshot St. Louis 38-20. …The Blues dropped to 7-4-0 on the road and 7-1-0 when scoring first.