Blue Jackets bolster playoff hopes with 4-1 win over Blues

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

COLUMBUS, Ohio - The Blue Jackets needed to leave a lasting impression on Nationwide Arena Friday night. Not only are they clinging to playoff hopes with two weeks left in the season, but they're going to be gone for a while.
In a thunderous affair, played at playoff pace before 17,007, the Blue Jackets thumped St. Louis 4-1, scoring the final four goals of the game after the Blues scored on the game's first shot on goal.
Cam Atkinson, Artem Anisimov, Ryan Johansen and Marian Gaborik scored for Columbus, which inched two games over .500 (18-16-7) for the first time since late in the 2010-11 season.
Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky had 31 saves, all of them after allowing Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk's goal at 1:26 of the first.
"The speed, the intensity ... it sure felt like a playoff game," Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said. "It had some nastiness to it. For me it was a great hockey game, and obviously we can enjoy a bit more because we won. But we earned it."
The Blues had won six straight games, the final by shutout. In fact, the Blues - despite the loss - set a franchise record with a 204 minute, 3 second shutout streak, ending Friday when Atkinson scored at 13:42 of the first.
The Blues' shutout streak had started four games earlier, in a 3-1 win over the Blue Jackets on April 5 in St. Louis. The previous record (196:15) was set in 1968-69, when NHL Hall-of-Fame goaltenders Glenn Hall and Jacques Plante shared the Blues' net.
"We didn't go into the hard areas to score," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "They scored three of their goals from the hard areas. I just don't think we're going in for the second and third opportunities. We've gotten away with it lately, but tonight we didn't."
After the game, the Blue Jackets flew to St. Paul, Minn., where on Saturday they were to begin a six-game, 13-day road trip that will either dash their playoff hopes or affirm them.
They won't play against in Columbus until April 27, the final game of the season.
"This road trip is everything, obviously," Atkinson said. "We have to take what we've done at home these last few weeks and figure out a way to bottle it and take it with us."
The Jackets have made the playoffs only one time in their previous 11 seasons - that was in 2008-09, when they were swept in four games by Detroit.
Friday's game may have been a good prep for the post-season.
Shattenkirk's goal only 86 seconds into the game - a low wrister that sailed past Bobrovsky's right pad - did nothing to slow Columbus.
At 14:32, a wrist shot by Jackets defensemen Adrian Aucoin was deflected by two Blue Jackets - Matt Calvert, then Atkinson - before caroming off Allen and into the net.
The lead grew to 2-1 when Anisimov scored off a Brandon Dubinsky feed at 14:20 of the second, and 3-1 when Johansen scored off a rebound at 18:36.
The capper came only 1:21 into the third when Gaborik jetted through the right wing on a 2-on-1 and redirected the puck past Allen off a feed from Mark Letestu to make it 4-1.
"We withstood the first five minutes," Richards said. "(Bobrovsky) he'd the fort until the help could arrive. But I thought we managed the game very well after that."
NOTES: Hitchcock's next win will be his 600th NHL victory, which would make him one of only 11 coaches to hit that milestone. Six of them coached the Blues. ... Elliott was given the night off on Friday so he could rest up for Sunday's noon eastern tilt with Western Conference-leading Chicago. ... The Blue Jackets assigned prospect center Boone Jenner to their AHL affiliate in Springfield, but haven't ruled out him playing in Columbus this season. Jenner's season with Oshawa, in the Ontario Hockey League, ended earlier in the week. ... After missing five games with an undisclosed injury, Blue Jackets winger Jared Boll returned to the lineup. ... Blues winger Patrik Berglund left midway through the second period with an injury and did not return.

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