COLUMBUS, Ohio – Curtis Sanford is playing his way into the Columbus Blue Jackets’ plans for a turnaround.
Sanford made 27 saves, Jeff Carter had two goals and the Blue Jackets beat the Calgary Flames 4-1 on Monday night for their first winning streak in 42 games.
“He came in there after getting an injury and working his way back and got a chance to play,” Carter said of surging Sanford. “He’s done everything we’ve asked of him. It’s been good to see.”
Columbus got off to a terrible start this season but Sanford, who signed a two-way contract in the off-season and recently returned from a groin injury, has been a steadying influence in place of struggling Steve Mason.
Some of Columbus’ key scorers are beginning to find the back of the net, too.
“We had talked about chemistry and getting the whole team together and having everybody out there on the same page,” coach Scott Arniel said. “It’s starting to evolve into that.”
Antoine Vermette and Rick Nash also scored, and Vinny Prospal added three assists for the Blue Jackets, who improved to 3-1-1 in their last five games, and 2-0-1 in those games with Sanford. Nash stopped a seven-game drought.
“I think there’s more pressure winning on home ice than winning on the road,” Sanford said. “We had to make sure we brought our same work boots that we had on the road and we did that.”
Mark Giordano scored for Calgary, which was seeking a third consecutive win. Backup Henrik Karlsson made 26 stops.
Carter, who has all three of his goals this season in the last two games, carried the puck the length of the ice before sending a snap shot from the left circle over Karlsson’s glove at 3:01 of the first period.
The Blue Jackets continued to forecheck and it paid dividends three minutes later. Derek Dorsett jostled the puck loose around the Flames net and eventually Vermette flicked a nifty shot between his legs and inside the near post to make it 2-0.
“You expect more,” Flames coach Brent Sutter said of his inconsistent club. “I guess that’s why we’re a team that wins one, loses one because we’re having a hard time holding that emotion, that intensity you need to have to win hockey games in the National Hockey League on a game-to-game basis.”
Sutter used his timeout after Vermette’s goal and the Flames responded, playing with more cohesion. They finished the period with an 11-10 shots advantage, but Sanford was there to close the door on the best chances.
Sanford stymied Tim Jackman trying to finish a 2-on-1, kicked aside an uncontested slap shot from Giordano and gloved Alex Tanguay’s attempt.
In the second period, soon after Sanford got a piece of a shot from Rene Bourque on a short-handed breakaway, Columbus capitalized on a two-man advantage at 5:28. Carter fired a Prospal rebound into an open net to make it 3-0.
“He’s got a really, really good wrist shot and was able to use it the last two games,” Prospal said of Carter. “That’s one of his strengths, besides his skating, is a great release and he can use it anywhere.”
The Flames bounced back with a power-play goal of their own just over four minutes later. Skating laterally into the right circle, Giordano put on the brakes and converted a perfectly placed shot to the far post for his third.
The Flames’ best chance in the third period came early when Tanguay hit the post and Mikael Backlund couldn’t sweep the rebound into a gaping net.
Nash put the game away with his fifth at 18:29.
“They kept on coming right to the end,” Sanford said. “We stayed on our toes.”
NOTES: Columbus is 15-4-2 at home against Calgary. …The Flames are 4-5-0 on the road. …G Allen York was added to the Columbus roster as an emergency recall to serve as Sanford’s backup instead of Mason, who was hit in the facemask by a Nash slap shot in the morning skate. … Carter has two three-goal games in his seven-year career. …Karlsson is 0-3-1.