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Jackets give St. Louis the blues

            Two teams on very different paths met up in Nationwide Arena Monday night when the Columbus Blue Jackets took on the St. Louis Blues.

            The Blue Jackets, entering the night with a three-game losing streak, defeated the Blues 4-2. St. Louis had brought with them four straight wins. 

Columbus’ newly resurgent offense is beginning to show signs of life after having scored nine goals in its past two games.

            Jackets’ goaltender Mathieu Garon had a strong showing in a rough game to further his case in staking an outright claim to the starting net-minder position over struggling Steve Mason.

            Every game between Columbus and St. Louis seems to be a physical affair.

            “There’s history there,” Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock said after the game.

            The rough play started early as a scuffle broke out just 30 seconds into the first period as multiple punches were thrown by a variety of combatants. Jackets forward Raffi Torres was the only player assessed a penalty, however, and the Blues were on the power play.

            St. Louis left winger Paul Kariya, who has been getting it done for a long time in the NHL, capitalized with a sniper shot from between the circles for his ninth goal of the season.

            Torres didn’t wait long to have his revenge. He fought off a defender at center ice in the Blues’ zone and put a relatively weak slap shot on net. It was still too much for St. Louis goalie Chris Mason to handle as he gave up the soft goal. Kris Russell and Mathieu Roy assisted on the play for Columbus.

            Torres struck again at the 11:45 mark in the first period. Jackets’ center Derick Brassard put a gorgeous, Xbox-style move on a St. Louis defenseman in the corner, maneuvering the puck between his legs, before snapping a pass to Roy, who then sent it to a wide-open Torres. Torres buried it for the 2-1 lead.

            “He’s an unpredictable scoring player,” Hitchcock said of Torres. “He’s got a great wrist shot and he’s one of the few guys that can score from a distance. He’s got arguably the best release on the team.”       

            St. Louis kicked off the second period scoring when forward Keith Tkachuk was on the receiving end of some good fortune. His shot was stopped by Garon, but it deflected towards a sliding Russell and then caromed into the goal.

            The Blue Jackets answered quickly with a power play goal by captain Rick Nash, who scored from a near-impossible angle. His shot squirted between the leg pads of the Blues’ Mason to regain the lead for Columbus.

            “Big goal by Nasher,” Torres said of the play. “It’s kind of weird seeing a goalie giving him that kind of time and space.”     

            Columbus started the third period of play where it left off the second: on the attack. 

            Journeyman Chris Clark, who the Jackets acquired from the Washington Capitals earlier in the season, scored his fifth goal of the season from the middle of a crowd of traffic in front of the St. Louis net. The goal was reviewed briefly to ascertain whether or not Clark had been in the crease before scoring.

            The goal was confirmed to finish up the night’s scoring.

            As the goal-cannon smoke cleared and the happy Blue Jackets faithful filed from the building, the Blue Jackets players looked forward to a night on a plane to savor their victory as they head off for the first leg of their upcoming two-game road trip.

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It’s always a less turbulent plane ride after a win.

           

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