(HockeyStL) -- For more than a month the St. Louis Blues have been hovering around the eighth seed in the Western Conference. Unable to pull themselves into a more comfortable position heading into the playoffs, the Blues had to face the surging Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday night.
It was a task easier said than done.
The Blue Jackets, who had the lowest point total in the NHL through March 7, pulled within one point of the eighth-seeded Blues while winning ten of their last 16 games played prior to Friday.
The only thing that could hamper their chances against the Blues would be history.
The Blue Jackets had only beaten the Blues once in their last ten games played against each other. Coupled with the fact that Columbus had won only two of their last 16 games played inside the Scottrade Center so it appeared to be St. Louis’ game to lose.
Chris Stewart broke a scoreless game with four minutes remaining in the second period despite the Blue Jackets outplaying the Blues for most of the game. Alex Pietrangelo fed Stewart, who was positioned in front of Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, to score the Blues’ second power play goal in their last eight games.
It was an unconventional power play goal, but at this point the Blues will take it.
“Our (power play) has been struggling lately so we decided to go Petro down low and Jay (Bouwmeester) go in the corner and it worked out tonight,” Stewart said. “They don’t give up much and this time of the year we’re going to have to score those ugly ones. I think that’s what we did tonight.”
Bouwmeester, acquired on April 1 in a trade from the Calgary Flames, was also credited with an assist on the goal. It was his first point recorded in 11 games played at the Scottrade Center.
The goal matched Stewart’s point total from last season. It was his 30th point (16 goals, 14 assists) in 36 games played. It took him 79 games to get 30 points last season.
Artem Anisimov pulled Columbus even nearly three minutes later after skating from behind the net to score his tenth goal of the season.
But the 19,224 fans in attendance rose back to their feet nine seconds later when David Backes scored his second goal in as many games to retake the lead with 1:15 left in the second period. Backes recently ended a 14-game goal drought against the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday.
The Blue Jackets thought they tied the game on a shot from Cam Atkinson with 13:20 left in the third period, but the referees immediately ruled that Matt Calvert made contact with Jake Allen and disallowed the potential tying goal.
“They put a lot of traffic to the net,” Jake Allen said. “That’s what every team wants to do, but they did really well tonight. Our (defense) did a great job blocking a couple key shots for me.”
A late push from Columbus ended when Patrik Berglund scored an empty-net goal with one second left to seal a 3-1 victory for the Blues.
With the playoffs in mind, the Blue Jackets acquired star forward Marian Gaborik on April 3 and have seen an immediate impact from the trade.
Gaborik scored a game-winning goal and added an assist in his first game with the team on Thursday. He added an assist on a second period goal by Anisimov, which tied the game at the time, against the Blues on Friday.
Gaborik had a near-breakaway seven minutes into the game, but Allen charged out of the net and averted danger by swiping the loose puck to the boards before Columbus’ newest acquisition had a chance to reach it.
The win gave the Blues their tenth victory over the Blue Jackets in their last eleven games played against each other. Columbus has been defeated 15 out of their last 17 games played inside the Scottrade Center.
The Blues will play next against the Red Wings in Detroit on Sunday at 11:30 a.m. (central time). It will be the first game of a four-game road trip.