COLUMBUS, Ohio – Almost none of the 14,070 fans on hand knew that Mark Letestu scored the game-winning goal for the Columbus Blue Jackets.
That was OK with him. He was just happy his team came away with two points.
Letestu redirected Jack Johnson’s shot from the point with 2:38 left, lifting the Blue Jackets past the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2 on Monday night.
The goal was initially credited to James Wisniewski immediately after the game. Johnson, celebrating his 27th birthday, thought he had the winner until the goal was changed long after the teams had left the ice.
Letestu said the crowd, that was so exuberant during the Blue Jackets’ rally in the second half of last season, had a hand in carrying the club.
“It was especially loud coming down the stretch,” said Letestu, who has four goals in five games after netting only one before then. “When we got that last power play, (the fans) could sense it, too, that we were close. Maybe they willed us on to score that one.
“It was rockin’ out there.”
It was the Blue Jackets’ season-high fourth win in a row.
There were plenty of others in the spotlight before Letestu’s winner. Nathan Horton scored his 200th NHL goal, also during a third-period power play, and Ryan Johansen scored for Columbus, which is 5-1 in the new year. Sergei Bobrovsky had 26 saves.
“We showed some character coming back,” said Horton, a free-agent signing from Boston last summer who missed the first 40 games for his new team while recovering from shoulder surgery. “That’s what we needed when we needed it most.”
Tampa Bay had been 17-1 when leading after two periods.
The Blue Jackets had a man advantage for the sixth time after Tyler Johnson was called for hooking with 3:28 remaining.
Just 50 seconds later, Wisniewski fed Johnson for a hard shot that Letestu deflected past Anders Lindback through heavy traffic in front.
“They found a lane there,” said Lindback, who had 25 saves.
Columbus, 2 for 6 with a man advantage, dominated the rest of the way. Wisniewski barely missed on an empty-net attempt with a minute left, and Matt Calvert and Brandon Dubinsky helped to keep the puck away from the hard-pressing Lightning.
“We got our game back,” coach Todd Richards said about the step up after a dismal second period. “To me, that’s a sign of the character you’re looking for from your group. Teams are going to make pushes, get some momentum in the game … but I like the way we went after it in the third period.”
Alex Killorn and Victor Hedman had goals for Tampa Bay, and Lindback stopped 25 shots.
“Ultimately, we had way too many penalties,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “It turned into a special-teams game, and their special teams were better than ours.”
Columbus tied it at 2 at 3:09 of the third when Horton wristed a rising shot from the top of the left circle just inside the far post.
The power-play tally was his second goal for Columbus after notching 142 in six seasons with Florida and 56 in three years with the Bruins.
Johnson didn’t end up with the winner but did have two assists.
“It felt nice to have a comeback win on the birthday,” he said. “I can rest easy a little bit more tonight.”
NOTES: Columbus RW Cam Atkinson had a three-game goal streak end. C Boone Jenner had scored in two straight. … Tampa Bay C Steven Stamkos missed his 29th game (broken right leg). The Lightning fell to 15-10-4 without him. … The last time the teams met, the Blue Jackets won 1-0 when Bobrovsky stopped all 18 shots he faced before leaving with a strained groin that would sideline him for a month. … The Lightning played the second of a three-game road trip that ends Tuesday at New York. The Blue Jackets opened a span in which they will play five of six at home.
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