COLUMBUS, Ohio – Things are going so badly for the Columbus Blue Jackets that opposing players don’t need to see the goal light come on or hear the horn to know they’ve scored.
“For some reason, it kicked out and I was lucky to be there,” T.J. Galiardi said after his goal with just under a minute left gave the Colorado Avalanche a 3-2 victory over the Blue Jackets on Saturday night. “I just shot it on net and tried to go far side. I could tell it went in when the goalie put his head down.”
Mason had reason to slump his shoulders. A season of promise has melted away for the youngest team in the NHL.
The Blue Jackets haven’t scored more than two goals in their last 10 games and have lost 20 of 23 games, going 3-13-7 since a 12-6-2 start.
“We’ve had a lot of these games like this (where we’ve) played really well and create a lot of scoring chances and don’t finish,” Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock said. “These are disappointing losses for everybody. Every game is tense for us because there’s no margin for error.”
It was the second home game in a row that the Blue Jackets led with a period to go and ended up losing.
Colorado’s Milan Hejduk carried the puck into the offensive zone and fired the puck at Mason, who finished with 34 saves. Mason blocked the puck but it bounced to the left circle where Galiardi, trailing the play, collected it and beat Mason from a hard angle with 57.8 seconds left.
Craig Anderson had 26 saves, and Kyle Cumiskey and Chris Stewart also scored for the Avalanche, who have won nine of 13 overall and five of their last six away from home.
“A real solid road game for us,” coach Joe Sacco said. “Our first period was OK, after that we got our skating and legs. We really sustained the level of pressure that we wanted to against them. We stuck with it right to the end. We found a way to get that last goal.”
Kristian Huselius and Derick Brassard scored for Columbus. A fast-food chain gives out chili to ticket-holders whenever the team scores three goals in a home game but that hasn’t happened since Dec. 14.
Former Columbus captain Adam Foote, who forced a trade to Colorado at the deadline two years ago, was booed every time he touched the puck. He almost predicted during the second intermission, when the Avalanche was trailing 2-1, how the game would end.
“Adam said between periods, ‘It’s going to feel good when we get the win here,”‘ Galiardi said. “And that’s exactly what happened.”
The teams traded goals until Stewart tied it 2-2 at 5:28 of the third period. Stewart fed Paul Stastny and then got the puck back, settled it and wristed it off Mason’s glove for his 12th of the year.
“I made a pass to Stastny cross-ice. Hats off to him, he came right back to me,” Stewart said. “It was a little in my skates so I had to kick it up to my blade there and try to get everything on it.”
Even though the Blue Jackets continue to struggle to score, let alone win, forward R.J. Umberger said they retain hope of turning things around.
“Until we’re mathematically out, yes, that (the playoffs) is our goal,” he said. “Once we stop believing that, then what are we playing for? We are going out there trying to play hard for our fans, ourselves, for each guy on this team.”
Foote offered the proper footnote to the win.
“Tonight was a game where we had to do the little things right to be successful,” he said about the third-period comeback. “They are a desperate team over there, well coached, and we were able to stay in the game and found a way to win.”
NOTES: The Avalanche finished off a three-game trip while playing their 25th road game, most in the NHL. … Blue Jackets LW Alexandre Picard sustained an undisclosed injury in the second period and did not return. … Columbus goes on a three-game Western Canada trip next week.