COLUMBUS, Ohio – The numbers say the Columbus Blue Jackets are one of the best teams in the NHL when they’re playing at home.
Now they have to carry that over to the road. Jason Chimera scored a second-period goal and Pascal Leclaire made it stand with 25 saves as the Blue Jackets edged the Vancouver Canucks 3-2 on Tuesday night to set a franchise record with their sixth straight home win.
Nikolai Zherdev had a goal and an assist for the Blue Jackets, who have won three in a row overall, all at home. Ron Hainsey also had a goal for Columbus, among the NHL leaders with a 16-6-4 record at home. In the midst of contention, now the Blue Jackets embark on a critical five-game road trip.
“It’s not a demon,” coach Ken Hitchcock said of the problems his team has had while going 6-12-2 on the road. “We have to prove we can win on the road. There’s no better feeling than winning on the road. We’ve pretty much done our job at home, but we’re going to have to play at a higher level to win on the road.”
Daniel Sedin and Kris Beech had the goals for Vancouver, which had given up just one in winning the two previous meetings with the Blue Jackets. Beech was picked up off waivers from the Blue Jackets on Thursday.
The Blue Jackets, who didn’t win their 16th home game a year ago until March 20, came in tied for second in the NHL for the best home record.
“We’ve got to bring it on the road,” captain Adam Foote said.
Columbus took a quick 2-0 lead and then weathered a comeback by Vancouver before relying on Leclaire, who leads the league with seven shutouts, to hold on through the third period.
At the 16:43 mark of the second, Columbus regained the lead at 3-2 when Dan Fritsche wristed a pass ahead to Chimera, who redirected it for his seventh goal – and second in three games after a 25-game goal drought.
In the last minute, Leclaire stopped Ryan Kesler’s point-blank shot from the slot. Kesler snapped his stick in half over knee in frustration.
With less than four seconds left, Leclaire helped avert another threat when he gloved a pass through the crease.
“When their goalie’s out, everybody throws the puck at the net,” Leclaire said. “They did that often tonight, too, from the corners, just trying to create some confusion in front and trying to get that ugly goal on a rebound. When the clock is running down – you just throw it in front and see what happens and hopefully it hits something.”
The Blue Jackets scored on their first two power-play chances, with Hainsey finding the net on Columbus’ first shot and Zherdev scoring quickly after Michael Peca won a faceoff in the right circle.
Vancouver, badly outplayed the first half of the period, rallied late and drew to within 2-1 on Beech’s goal.
The Canucks then tied it on the power play. Sami Salo tossed a pass from the point to Henrik Sedin, positioned six metres away from the net on the right goal line. He then saucered a pass that bounced over defenceman Adam Foote’s stick to his twin brother, who scored his 22nd into an empty net.
Coach Alain Vigneault remains mystified why his team is 0-14-1 when trailing after two periods.
“We haven’t had one comeback all year. We weren’t able to muster one tonight,” he said. “We are very good when we have the lead, but mental toughness is being able to push through and make a push in the third. I think we have that, but we haven’t shown it this year this, not once. And I have no reason why.”
Notes: LW Fredrik Modin, who has missed the last 30 games with two fractures in his back, is now skating with the Blue Jackets and may soon be activated. … LW Markus Naslund played in 999th career game over 14 seasons with Vancouver and Pittsburgh. … Salo appeared to hurt his arm late in the game when he got tangled up with Columbus’ David Vyborny in the corner.