COLUMBUS, Ohio – On the TV in the Vancouver dressing room, the opening ceremonies of their hometown Olympics were taking place.
Mikael Samuelsson glanced occasionally at the images as he tried to explain one of the weirdest goals imaginable. Samuelsson scored on a lazy, deflected popup that wafted over goalie Steve Mason’s head, capping the Canucks’ comeback from a two-goal deficit to beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-3 on Friday night.
“I don’t know what to say,” Samuelsson said, a slight grin creasing the corners of his mouth. “It was obviously a lucky one. Everybody saw that.”
Samuelsson took a short pass from Ryan Kesler, who played college hockey at nearby Ohio State, and attempted a one-timer from the high slot eight minutes into the final period.
Columbus forward Derick Brassard got a stick on the puck at almost the same time as Samuelsson followed through, the puck squirting up into the air and slowly drifting like a short chip shot, dropping just behind a befuddled Mason and barely skidding over the goal line.
“We missed a few empty nets in the second, so we were probably due to get a break,” Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said. “We did get a break, and then (goalie Andrew) Raycroft shut them down.”
With Columbus ahead 3-2 going into the third period, Sami Salo tied it on a power-play goal. Henrik Sedin’s pass from the left corner found Salo by himself between the circles. He had time to settle the puck and tee it up before firing a hard shot over sliding defenceman Jan Hejda and in off the right post at 4:31.
“I saw that they had four guys in the corner,” Salo said. “I found a spot kind of in the slot. I was hoping for our forwards to win that battle in the corner and that’s what we did. Henrik laid a pass to me and I just tried to shoot it shortside. It happened to go off the post and in.”
Nolan Baumgartner and Kyle Wellwood also scored for the Canucks, playing their seventh game on the longest road trip (14 games) in NHL history. Before it is over they will have gone 42 days between home games, spanning the league’s Olympic break.
The win was the 100th of Raycroft’s career (100-100-26) as he spelled starter Roberto Luongo.
“When the game was on the line in the third period, he did what a goaltender is supposed to and he gave us a chance to win,” Vigneault said.
Rick Nash, Jared Boll and Raffi Torres had goals for Columbus, which failed in its attempt to win a fourth game in a row for the first time this season.
“The (fourth) goal scored on Mason was a lucky goal,” Torres said.
It took just 2:38 to register the first three goals, then nine seconds in the second period separated two more.
Only 22 seconds in, Nash coasted down the left wing, swivelled to screen the puck behind defenceman Alexander Edler and then snapped a shot inside the far post.
The Canucks countered less than two minutes later when Alex Burrows found Baumgarter all alone for a one-timer at the bottom of the left circle. It was his first NHL goal in four years, the last also coming against Columbus, and only his seventh in 138 career games.
Just 30 seconds later, Boll was able to get a stick on a rebound and punched it past Raycroft as he backed into the net.
The Blue Jackets went up 3-1 on Torres’ one-timer off a bouncing pass from Jake Voracek. Before that could be announced, Mason mishandled a puck behind his own goal that led to Wellwood’s goal from the slot while Mason lay on the ice.
“We handled the adversity well,” said Columbus interim coach Claude Noel, who lost for the first time after three victories since taking over for the fired Ken Hitchcock on Feb. 3. “We were good. I thought we were patient. Their fourth goal … would have sent anybody over the deep end.”
NOTES: Samuelsson went down courtesy of Columbus D Milan Jurcina’s high stick late in the first period but returned on that same double-minor. … The Blue Jackets had killed all 16 power plays they faced over their last five games before Salo scored. … The Blue Jackets scored first for the sixth game in a row. … Each team had 35 shots.