ANAHEIM, Calif. – The Columbus Blue Jackets made the playoffs last season for the first time in team history, and they don’t plan on slipping backward.
Fedor Tyutin scored the go-ahead goal on a one-timer from the blue line with 3:22 left, and Rick Nash and Jakub Voracek each scored twice, leading the Blue Jackets to a 6-4 victory over the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday night. Columbus is off to a 6-3-0 start, the best since the franchise began operations in 2000-01.
“It’s early in the season and guys are learning,” coach Ken Hitchcock said. “I thought we really stayed with it tonight, and I liked a lot of things we did. We looked more like the team we needed to be to win on the road.”
Coming off losses at Calgary and Edmonton in which they surrendered 12 goals, the Blue Jackets became the third team in eight nights to beat the Ducks at Honda Center. Antoine Vermette had a goal and two assists for Columbus and Steve Mason made 32 saves.
“You see the frustration on the players’ faces when they come to the bench. The frustrating thing is that they’re not being rewarded for the hard work they put in,” Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. “When you’re going through stretches like we’re going through right now, it seems like when something has a chance to go wrong, it goes wrong. But you have to persevere.”
Joffrey Lupul scored twice and Teemu Selanne and Scott Niedermayer hit paydirt on both of Anaheim’s power plays against a penalty-killing unit that came in 36 for 40. Selanne scored the tying goal with 12:17 left in regulation and Ryan Getzlaf had three assists for Anaheim.
“It’s a frustrating time right now with the way things are going,” Getzlaf said. “We had a lead and let it slip away. I’ve never been part of a team with a losing mentality, and it’s not going to start now.”
Ducks right winger Evgeny Artyukhin began serving the three-game suspension he received from the league for a slew-footing takedown of Dallas’ Matt Niskanen in the second period of Wednesday night’s 3-2 loss. Teammate Ryan Carter missed his second straight game after getting hit by a puck in practice.
The Ducks, who had won eight of the previous 10 meetings with Columbus, were frantically trying to get the puck out of the zone when it slid parallel with the goal line. Tyutin swooped in and let it fly, and it beat a stunned Jean-Sebastien Giguere.
Giguere, who has been slowed this week by a groin problem, reinjured himself on the play and was replaced by Jonas Hiller after making 30 saves.
Nash’s empty-net goal completed the scoring with 16 seconds to go.
Trailing 4-2 after Vorecek’s goal just 18 seconds before the second intermission, the Ducks rallied with two goals in less than 3 minutes to tie it with 12:17 to play.
Lupul got his second of the game during a goalmouth scramble. Selanne got the equalizer, flipping the puck past Mason from the edge of the crease on an assist from Saku Koivu while Derek Dorsett was off for tripping Lupul.
Columbus centre Samuel Pahlsson, who helped the Ducks win the Stanley Cup in 2007, returned to Anaheim for the first time since the club traded him to Chicago on March 4. During a play stoppage at 13:59 of the first period, he was welcomed back with a video tribute that included one of the three goals he scored in the finals. Just 11 seconds later, Lupul gave Anaheim a 1-0 lead with a 35-foot slap shot.
But the Blue Jackets outshot the Ducks 18-10 in the second period and outscored them 4-1. Vermette tied it at 8:12, sweeping the puck past Giguere from the low slot with a backhander while falling to the ice. He has nine goals and 13 assists in 26 games since he was acquired from Ottawa at the trade deadline last March.
The Ducks converted their first power play after Vermette was sent off for tripping Koivu at 11:34 of the period. Niedermayer took a 40-foot wrist shot that caromed off Mason’s leg and then ricocheted off the skate of Columbus defenceman Mike Commodore before trickling over the goal line to put Anaheim back in front.
But the Blue Jackets responded with three goals in the final 6:06 of the period. Nash scored at 13:54, spinning away from defenceman Brendan Mikkelson at the right of the net and throwing the puck through the crease before it deflected in off Niedermayer’s skate.
“That’s the difference about our team this year,” Nash said. “A couple years ago, we’d get down a goal on the road and fold our cards. But now we don’t let it discourage us. We stick with it.”
Voracek made it 3-2 at 16:45 of the period with a one-timer from the slot after Vermette fed him the puck while on his knees to the right of the net. Voracek then scored into a wide-open net with Giguere out of position after Vermette rung one off the left post.
NOTES: Saturday marked the second and final time this season that all 30 teams played on the same day. There also was a full slate Oct. 3. … Artyukhin’s suspension will cost him US$34,756 in salary. He will be eligible to return Oct. 31 at Phoenix.