COLUMBUS, Ohio – Nikolai Zherdev showered, dressed and left the Columbus locker room about as quickly as he scored his two third-period goals.
Zherdev’s two goals in the last six minutes – one on a highlight-reel move that provided the go-ahead goal – helped the Blue Jackets beat the St. Louis Blues 6-4 on Friday night and get some payback for a bad loss three days earlier.
The 23-year-old Russian was gone before anyone could speak with him. His teammates weren’t nearly so reticent.
“That’s what he does – he changes games around,” said Jason Chimera, who added his first goal in 26 games. “He’s one of those superstars in this league right now. It’s one of those things, when he gets the puck the other team kind of backs off.”
With the score tied 3-all, Zherdev swooped into the offensive zone and passed the puck to himself backward between his legs before wristing a shot from the high slot that got by goaltender Hannu Toivonen with 5:57 left.
After Dan Fritsche made it 5-3 on a shot from the left dot just over a minute later, Zherdev took a long pass from David Vyborny and scored on a backhander for his 17th of the season. He had just 10 goals in 71 games a year ago.
Zherdev didn’t practise on Wednesday or Thursday after taking a hard hit from David Backes in St. Louis’ 6-1 victory over the Blue Jackets on Tuesday night.
“I don’t know if any of the players knew if he was going (to play) or not until this morning,” Fritsche said. “He looked good. I totally forgot he was hurt until he told me about it. He was at his best tonight, that’s for sure.”
Ron Hainsey and Rick Nash also had goals for the Blue Jackets. Chimera and Fritsche each also had an assist, while Vyborny and Adam Foote had three assists apiece. Sergei Fedorov added two assists to extend his points streak to five games.
The Blue Jackets, who had lost their last two games, won their fourth in a row at home.
Backes, Brad Boyes, Andy McDonald and Jay McClement had goals for the Blues. The Blues had a three-game winning streak and six-game points streak come to an end a night after beating Dallas 4-2 at home.
Backes and McDonald also added assists.
“It was a huge win. Everybody knows what happened out there (on Tuesday night),” said Pascal Leclaire, who had 26 saves for the Blue Jackets. “It was embarrassing. We were pretty sour about it. We definitely came out the way we wanted to play. We were in their face all night.”
The Blues, 16-3-4 when scoring first, got on the board on their first shot of the game. Backes was trailing the play as Erik Johnson skated in from the left side. Johnson lifted a pass back to Backes in the slot, the puck hitting his skate and sliding into the net.
Nash then took a pass from Fedorov, settled the puck with his stick and beat Toivonen high on the glove side just inside the far post for his 23rd of the year.
The Blue Jackets had a two-man advantage when Hainsey collected the puck near the boards, skated to the point and let go of a hard slap shot for his fourth goal.
Chimera, snakebit during his scoring drought, got a break when his wraparound glanced off defenceman Barret Jackman’s skate and slid into the net.
The Blues, last in the NHL on the power play, cut the lead to 3-2 late in the second period with a man advantage. Boyes picked up his 24th goal off a pass from McDonald, catching the far corner of the net with a hard slap shot.
St. Louis then evened it 3:33 into the third period on Lee Stempniak’s centring pass from the back wall to McDonald in the slot, who converted for his eighth.
“I give Columbus credit,” Blues coach Andy Murray said. “They worked extremely hard and they were focused on this hockey game. All I know is it was 3-3 in the third period and we didn’t get it done.”
Notes: Blues RW Mike Johnson will have surgery next Wednesday to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder and will miss the rest of the season. … Derick Brassard, Columbus’ No. 1 pick and the sixth overall in the 2006 draft, made his NHL debut.