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Jackets' Bobrovsky prevails in goalie duel

The SportsXchange

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- A good case could be made that the Blue Jackets are leaning too hard on goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky these days. Then again, maybe the hottest goalie in the NHL doesn't need much help.

Bobrovsky had 39 saves in the Blue Jackets' 1-0 shootout win over Phoenix last night before 14,231 in Nationwide Arena.

He stopped both Coyotes shootout attempts -- Mikkel Boedker in the first round and Steve Sullivan in the second -- and Columbus extended its franchise-record point streak to 10 games.

The Blue Jackets got shootout goals from Artem Anisimov and Mark Letestu. A third-round shooter wasn't needed.

"Nothing new. (Bobrovsky) was great again tonight," Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said. "If the other team doesn't score a goal, you're going to win. That's how I look at tonight.

"You could tell our tanks were on empty. We put a lot of this game on his shoulders tonight, and they've been strong for a while now."

Phoenix goaltender Mike Smith also pitched a shutout, the 23rd of his career. But he wasn't nearly as busy as Bobrovsky, requiring only 23 saves, 12 of them in the first period.

"It's a great game for goaltenders," Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. "Two shutouts. It's a stalemate all the way to the shootout."

The Jackets have scored two goals for Bobrovsky in the last three games, but he has earned Columbus four points in that stretch.

His hot streak goes back longer than that, though.

In his last eight games, Bobrovsky has stopped 239 of 245 shots, a staggering .976 save percentage. He's the biggest reason the Blue Jackets have dug themselves out of the NHL's basement and on the cusp of being in the Stanley Cup playoffs conversation.

"We threw a lot at him, lots of pucks and traffic," Coyotes winger Shane Doan said. "Credit him, though. He was really good tonight, and he's been really good. He didn't leave us much in the form of rebounds."

After going the first 98 games of his career without a shutout, Bobrovsky has two shutouts in his last five games.

"What can you say that hasn't been said already about how he's playing," Letestu said. "We've played hard in front of him, but we haven't created much offensively. We haven't given him a lot of support, but he's rolling."

The Coyotes were by far the more dangerous club last night.

After the first period, Phoenix outshot the Blue Jackets 27-11, including a breakaway by Rob Klinkhammer at 11:47 of the second period that Bobrovsky stopped with the shaft of his stick.

The game was the fourth straight to reach a shootout for the Blue Jackets. It's the first time in franchise history that Columbus has won a shootout that was scoreless after regulation.

"It seems like all we do is play overtime," Letestu said. "If this was the playoffs, it might have gone four overtimes."

NOTES: Phoenix signed defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson to a six-year, $33 million contract extension on Friday. The Coyotes, still owned by the NHL while the search continues for an owner, were fearful another club might try to poach Ekman-Larsson -- a restricted free agent -- with an offer sheet. "Why wait and risk it when we can structure something that works for us," Coyotes general manager Don Maloney told The Arizona Republic. ... Blue Jackets defenseman Adrian Aucoin missed the game with "bumps and bruises." ... The Blue Jackets sent forward Sean Collins to minor-league Springfield.
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