COLUMBUS, Ohio – Last week, Dan LaCosta was toiling in the minors and waiting for a chance. He caught a break and became a top star in an NHL game twice in four days.
LaCosta made 31 saves – including a toe stop on Marek Svatos with seconds remaining – for his first career shutout in his second NHL start as the Columbus Blue Jackets beat the Colorado Avalanche 3-0 on Tuesday night.
“There was absolutely no way I would have thought I’d even be up here, let alone playing a couple games and doing well,” said LaCosta, who won his first start Saturday, a 3-2 overtime decision over Western-Conference leading San Jose. “It’s just a pretty surreal feeling right now.”
LaCosta got the nod again because rookie Steve Mason was out due to mononucleosis, and regular backup Wade Dubielewicz had the flu. Mason might return Friday against Detroit.
Andrew Murray, Jason Williams and Fredrik Modin scored third-period goals and Jan Hejda added two assists for Columbus, which swept the season series (4-0) from the Avalanche for the first time.
“Everybody is so excited for him,” Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock said of LaCosta, an emergency recall from the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch on Friday. “He played solid again. He’s a big guy that moves around the net really well. I thought he looked better than he did the last game.”
Peter Budaj made 27 stops in the fourth straight road loss for the Avalanche, who are reeling, having dropped six of eight overall.
“We’re going to have to work to get out of it,” Colorado coach Tony Granato said. “We’re going to have to play more consistent … we’re going to have to play 60 minutes. We’re going to have to battle like crazy.”
Columbus capitalized on a bad breakout sequence by the Avalanche and took a 1-0 lead 2:29 into the third period. Raffi Torres found Murray cutting to the net, and he beat Budaj inside the near post for his sixth.
Williams, skating in on a 3-on-1 rush after defenceman John-Michael Liles missed a check at centre ice on Jakub Voracek, sneaked a shot from the right dot between Budaj’s pads for his 11th and a 2-0 Blue Jackets lead at 9:43.
“He (Voracek) almost got killed coming through the middle,” Williams said. “I just picked up the puck after he put it to the side and just sort of went down. I tried to give the goalie a fake and get it on net.”
Modin redirected a point shot by Hejda 2:33 later to make it 3-0. The goal was Modin’s ninth and first in 14 games.
“It was a close game all the way through, chances going both ways,” Modin said.
The game was sloppy for the first two periods with turnovers and virtually no flow.
Columbus had a 16-4 shots advantage in the first period but Budaj held his ground, including kicking aside hard drives by Voracek and R.J. Umberger.
Murray did get a puck by Budaj late in the period, but it was disallowed because he batted it in with his hand.
On an Avalanche power play early in the second, after Rick Nash nearly scored short-handed on a rush with Michael Peca, LaCosta stopped Ryan Smyth’s slap shot from the right circle with the rebound bouncing to Milan Hejduk near the left circle. Hejduk fired a quick shot, but LaCosta slid across the crease to make the save.
“The team did a great job in front of me,” LaCosta said. “Most of the stuff was perimeter stuff tonight.”
Notes: The Blue Jackets are 12-7-1 in their past 20 games and 12-4 in their last 16 home games. … It was the first in a stretch of nine of 11 on the road for Colorado. … Columbus improved to 8-22-2 against the Avalanche. The Blue Jackets have won six of seven.