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Blues look to stay in playoff race vs. Blue Jackets

By Alan Ferguson

STATS Writer

St. Louis (36-30-9) at Columbus (39-28-6) 5:00 p.m. EDT

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- The St. Louis Blues used a hard-earned

victory at home over the Columbus Blue Jackets to move into

playoff contention. To stay there, the Blues will need to keep

their win streak going on the road.

In the search of its first playoff berth in five seasons, St.

Louis begins a crucial five-game trip with Sunday's finale of a

home-and-home series against the Blue Jackets.

After blowing a two-goal lead Saturday night against Columbus,

the Blues bounced back for a 4-3 win with David Perron providing

the shootout winner. In earning its season-high fourth straight

victory, St. Louis (36-30-9) pushed into a tie for the Western

Conference's final playoff spot with Edmonton at 81 points.

The Blues took a 3-1 lead on Alexander Steen's second-period

score, but the Blue Jackets responded with two goals in the

first 8:56 of the third.

"I guess you could say that they came back, but we knew it was

going to be a tough third period," St. Louis goaltender Chris

Mason said. "I guess you could say it's a relief, but it's the

same story with our team. We just keep plugging and find ways to

win."

If the Blues want to capture their first postseason berth since

2003-04, they will need that resiliency as six of their final

seven games are away from home. Following its five-game trek,

St. Louis plays Columbus at home April 10 before heading to the

regular-season finale two days later in Colorado.

After dropping 15 of their first 21 road games, the Blues are

8-3-3 in their last 14 but needed a 3-2 win March 20 at Calgary

to break a three-game skid as visitors.

They begin their road stretch against a Blue Jackets team that

is 9-2-1 in its last 12 home games, which includes a 4-3 win

over St. Louis on Feb. 18.

By earning a point in nine of its last 10 games, Columbus has

made a strong push toward its first postseason berth in the

franchise's eight seasons and is sixth in the West - four points

ahead of Nashville - with seven games left. The Blue Jackets

(39-28-6) picked up a point in their fifth straight contest

Saturday as Kristian Huselius and Rick Nash scored in a 1:33

span in the third period.

"We didn't play very good for two periods to start off the

game," said Nash, who tallied his team-leading 35th. "To come

out with a point in a game like that shows a lot of character

from our guys."

A pair of emerging goaltenders named Mason have put each team in

position to break its postseason drought. After beginning the

season 3-13-1 with a 3.14 goals-against average, Chris Mason has

taken over as St. Louis' starter by going 19-7-5 with a 2.03 GAA

in his last 31 appearances.

Called up for injured starter Pascal Leclaire in November,

Columbus' Steve Mason is in contention for the Vezina and Calder

trophies thanks to a league-leading 10 shutouts and a 2.19 GAA

in his rookie season.

St. Louis' Mason has won two of the three head-to-head matchups

and is 11-2-1 with a 2.08 GAA in his career against the Blue

Jackets. Steve Mason has allowed 14 goals while going 1-2-1

against the Blues.

With Saturday's victory, St. Louis has won three of the four

meetings this season and is 8-2-0 in the last 10 versus

Columbus. The Blue Jackets, however, are 5-2-0 in their last

seven home games against the Blues.

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