DENVER – Down a goal late in the third period, R.J. Umberger glanced along the bench and saw hardly a drooped shoulder.
This isn’t the same Columbus Blue Jackets squad, one that in the past might have let this game slip away.
This is a more determined Blue Jackets team, one that’s focused on finding a way to get into the playoffs.
And this was definitely a good start.
Umberger tied the game late in the final period and Nick Foligno scored at 4:31 of overtime, helping the Blue Jackets beat the Colorado Avalanche 4-3 on Monday night for their fourth straight win.
Blake Comeau and Mark Letestu also added goals as the Blue Jackets remained in the thick of a tightly packed playoff chase. They pulled even in points (47) with Detroit for the final playoff spot.
“No one got down,” Umberger said. “This bench, this bench was saying, ‘Let’s go after them. Let’s get them.’ This group, we’re fighting to the end and everybody knew we were going to win this game.”
First, though, Sergei Bobrovsky had to save the game. With the Avalanche short-handed to start the extra period, Gabriel Landeskog broke free and it looked as if he might put an end to things. After all, Landeskog is one of the leaders in the league in short-handed goals this season.
But Bobrovsky made a magnificent save, robbing Landeskog of a goal.
Then, with just 28.7 seconds remaining in OT, Foligno skated in on the right side of Jean-Sebastien Giguere and sent a wrist shot by the veteran goaltender.
That was a departure for Foligno, who’s usually looking to pass in that situation and not shoot.
In this case, being selfish paid dividends.
“I just figured I’d shoot (through Giguere’s pads) and catch him before he went down and luckily it was able to sneak through,” Foligno said. “It was huge.”
Maybe even save-the-season huge, especially with only five games remaining.
“We’re finding ways,” Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said. “That’s what you have to do this time of year. Tough environment, tough team to play against with really nothing to lose—a big two points for our team.”
Cody McLeod scored twice and Jamie McGinn added another for the Avalanche, who are last in the Western Conference.
McGinn gave the Avs a lead with just over two minutes remaining in regulation on a power play, but it didn’t hold as Umberger answered just 35 seconds later.
Lately, Colorado hasn’t been playing as if it’s a last-place team. Giguere woke his teammates out of their funk when he criticized them for being more concerned about post-season plans in Las Vegas than their play on the ice.
That seemed to do the trick. Colorado is 2-0-2 following Giguere’s outburst.
There also was a dose of motivation for the Avs, too. The Blue Jackets beat Colorado twice down the stretch last season, all but ending the team’s late playoff bid.
This time, the Avs were trying to step into the role of spoilers.
Didn’t quite work out.
“This is playoff-type hockey,” Giguere said. “More often than not, if we play like this, we’ll get some wins.”
McLeod had his first two-goal game since Oct. 17, 2009, at Detroit. The small number of fans who braved a spring snow storm roaring through the Mile High City let out a thunderous cheer.
“For most of the game we battled hard, we get a huge goal with two minutes left in the game and then we give up a breakaway. We can’t do that,” McLeod said. “That’s the kind of thing we’ve been doing all year and it’s tough.”
This was precisely the kind of win the Blue Jackets’ needed.
“Huge character,” Foligno said. “You saw Blake’s goal, it was a big one, and Umby scored a huge one to get us into overtime. That seems to be the morale on this team. There’s no quit on this team and that’s what’s going to allow us, hopefully, to get into the playoffs.”
NOTES: Colorado coach Joe Sacco will lead the U.S. squad at the International Ice Hockey Federation World Championship in May. The tournament will be held in Helsinki, Finland, and Stockholm, Sweden. … Colorado reassigned G Sami Aittokallio to Lake Erie of the American Hockey League before the game. … Avs prospect Gus Young helped Yale to a win over Quinnipiac on Saturday in the NCAA championship game. Young, a seventh-round pick in 2009, is a defenceman and was on the ice for all four goals. … Blue Jackets D Adrian Aucoin (lower body) left the game in the second period. The Blue Jackets say he’s day to day. … A moment of silence was held before the national anthem for the victims of the bombings at the Boston Marathon earlier Monday.