COLUMBUS, Ohio – It’s way too early to declare a winner in the Feb. 19 trade between the Colorado Avalanche and the St. Louis Blues.
But the Columbus Blue Jackets think they know who got the best of the deal.
Chris Stewart flicked in a backhander 54 seconds into overtime to cap a Blues comeback for a 4-3 victory over the Blue Jackets on Wednesday night.
Stewart’s second goal of the game came as he crashed the net on a rush from the left wing, the puck wafting over the right shoulder of goalie Mathieu Garon and nearly knocking his water bottle to the ice.
“He kind of tensed up to block it,” Stewart said about Garon. “I saw an opportunity to make a move to my backhand. He bit. That’s something I work on in the summertime. It’s more of a men’s league move. That’s the first time I’ve tried to use it in the NHL.”
Stewart’s inspired move erased what had been a 3-0 Columbus lead at one point, and what was a two-goal advantage heading into the third period.
“In the third period, we knew we were going to have to play,” Blues coach Davis Payne said. “We knew we wanted keep working and let effort create results. Our guys did that. We found a way to get to overtime and then a great play on a rush advantage gives us the win.”
Stuck in a scoring slump, Stewart was dealt by the Avalanche to the Blues along with Kevin Shattenkirk for 2006 No. 1 pick Erik Johnson and Jay McClement.
So far, Stewart has been terrific for the Blues. He has three goals and two assists in a four-game points streak and also pleased the hometown fans with his fighting ability in a 5-4 shootout win over Columbus just two nights earlier.
The Blue Jackets were stuck trying to explain their late collapse.
“For about 33 minutes we did everything we wanted to do—we played hard, created chances, had some opportunities and scored some goals,” said coach Scott Arniel. “For the remaining 27 minutes, we stopped playing. We made lots of mistakes. We got careless and got away from what we were doing right in the first half of the game.”
Ian Cole had a goal and an assist and Alex Pietrangelo also scored for the Blues (30-28-9). Jaroslav Halak, returning after missing 11 games because of a cracked bone in his hand, made 19 saves.
Jake Voracek, R.J. Umberger and Derek MacKenzie scored for Columbus (31-26-9), which has dropped six in a row.
“It was a tough game to lose,” MacKenzie said.
The game featured two teams struggling to remain in the Western Conference playoff chase. It might have been the crowning blow to the Blue Jackets’ hopes.
“We have to be better,” said Columbus forward Scottie Upshall, acquired in a trade-deadline deal with Phoenix. “It was a great start and a poor finish. This time of year you have to be able to put forth your best effort every night. Tonight was kind of an off game.”
Down 3-1 coming into the third period, the Blues pulled even within six and a half minutes.
Cole, who had a goal waved off in the opening period, picked up his first career tally when his hard slap shot from the right side glanced off of Garon’s shoulder and tumbled into the net.
Controlling the puck, the Blues squared things when Stewart scored on a tip off another hard Cole shot.
After a scoreless first period, the Blue Jackets reeled off three goals in the middle period in a span of 6:24.
Late in the period, the Blues cut the gap to two goals on Pietrangelo’s rocket from near the right hash marks.
“From that point forward we did enough things right to get ourselves back into the hockey game,” Payne said. “The 3-1 goal was a big one to take into the locker room, to be on the board there.”
NOTES: The game was the Blue Jackets’ 400th at Nationwide Arena. They are 192-154-54. … Blues C Alexander Steen sustained a lower-body injury in the second period. … Garon, playing for only the seventh time in Columbus’ last 23 games, finished with 22 saves.