When St. Louis last faced the Columbus Blue Jackets, the game finished with the Blues celebrating the end a playoff drought. Now they are just hoping to start moving out of last place in the Central Division.
St. Louis visits Columbus for the first of six meetings between the division rivals this season in the opener of a three-game road trip Monday night.
The Blues (10-9-5) clinched their first playoff berth since 2004 with a 3-1 home victory over Columbus (12-9-4) on April 10 - their fifth win in six games against the Blue Jackets during the 2008-09 season.
After a slow start to 2009-10 during which they won only five of their first 15 games (5-6-4), the Blues have been better lately, going 4-1-1 in their last six. They fell 4-3 in a shootout to Detroit on Saturday after giving up a last-minute goal for the second time in three games.
St. Louis led 2-0 in the first period on goals by David Backes(notes) and Roman Polak(notes), but the Red Wings tied it at 3 with less than a minute remaining in regulation. Chris Mason(notes) gave up the game-winner in the fourth round of the shootout.
“We had the right people, in our opinion, on the ice at the end that we wanted to have out there,” coach Andy Murray said. “They made a play and scored a goal.
“Certainly when you’re leading in the last minute, you want the win.”
It was the second time in a week Murray watched his team blow a lead in the final minute. On Wednesday, the Blues led Dallas 3-2 before giving up a game-tying goal with 26 seconds left in the third period. St. Louis went on to win that game in a shootout.
The Blues, who will also face San Jose and Los Angeles on this trip, are 5-1-3 on the road, recording at least one point in five straight away from home.
While St. Louis won’t be able to climb out of last place in the Central with a win Monday, it can at least move closer as it tries to continue its recent domination of the Blue Jackets. The Blues have won 10 of the last 12 meetings overall and three of four at Nationwide Arena.
Mason is 13-2-1 with a 2.01 goals-against average against Columbus.
A visit from Mason and the Blues isn’t what the struggling Blue Jackets need as they try to snap a five-game losing streak (0-3-2) - their longest since they dropped the final five games of the 2007-08 season. Columbus has struggled to hold onto leads recently, including Saturday when it blew a 3-1 advantage against Calgary before losing 4-3 in a shootout.
Columbus, which returned home Saturday following a five-game road trip, has been outscored 6-0 in the third period of its last three games.
Rick Nash(notes) scored his 15th goal in the second period, his first in five games overall but seventh in the last seven home games. Nash had three goals and four assists against the Blues last season.
The Blue Jackets haven’t lost six in a row since an eight-game skid Nov. 10-24, 2006.