For the first time in nearly a month, the Blues skated to center ice after a home game and waved their sticks to the crowd in custom celebratory fashion.
David Perron’s goal with 10 minutes, 9 seconds left was the difference in a 2-1 win over Columbus, ending the Blues’ five-game losing streak at home.
“I think the whole win was a relief,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. “I don’t think we have played with the confidence in the last little while at home that we do on the road. We knew it was going to be hard to get off the snide here, and a win is a win.”
The Blues played a game worthy of a victory, but it didn’t come easy. In the closing minutes, defenseman Barret Jackman was whistled for a boarding penalty. It was a call Hitchcock disagreed with, putting Columbus on the power play for the final 1 minute, 43 seconds of the game.
Sitting on the ice during a frenzied penalty killing situation, Blues goaltender Jaroslav Halak had do his best Willie McGee imitation with 29 seconds to go. After a shot by Columbus’ Fedor Tyutin was blocked, Halak had to reach back to glove a pop fly headed for the net. He didn’t catch the puck, got a piece of it.
”It came out (of the glove), but lucky for us ... our guys got it out” of the goal crease, said Halak, who made 19 saves for his first victory since Jan. 26. “We just killed it, and it was great.”
The Blues, who improved to 10-6-2 overall and 4-4-1 at home, are off until playing host to red-hot Chicago on Thursday.
In their bid Saturday to nip the home-ice streak, players said they were in need of more energy from the outset. And it was evident with 12 first-period shots, 13 hits and seven blocked shots. But having scored just one goal in four of their last five games at Scottrade Center, the Blues needed goals.
They reached their recent quota with 6 minutes, 5 seconds remaining in the first period when Chris Stewart registered his seventh goal of the season.
Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk and Stewart approached the offensive zone and Shattenkirk drew a defender to him, freeing up Stewart. The right winger stepped into a slap shot from above the face-off circle, rifling a blast by goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky for a 1-0 Blues lead.
“I saw ‘Shatty’ driving through,” Stewart said. “I didn’t really know where I was going to put it, but I knew I was going to put it through heavy, and it had some eyes.”
Stewart’s goal gave him nine points in his last eight games.
Columbus went on a power play with about 7½ minutes to play in the second period, and James Wisniewski drummed his second goal post of the period. But the Jackets’ bid to tie the game continued, and Wisniewski again was involved.
The Blues went on their first power play of the game late in the second period, after Andy McDonald was high-sticked. The club entered the night owning the NHL’s No. 1-ranked power play (34.1 percent). But a unit that scored in eight consecutive games recently had been scoreless in its last three games.
It got worse, as Matt D’Agostini’s relief pass ended up on the stick of Wisniewski. He fed a stretch pass to Matt Calvert, who broke in alone on Halak. Calvert had a move in mind but as he tried to execute, he lost control of the puck. No matter, the puck slid across the line for a shorthanded goal with 1:03 remaining in the period.
And so a middle period that the Blues dominated — outshooting Columbus 13-3 — ended with the score tied 1-1.
“We’re moving this way and they’re moving this way ... it was tough,” Shattenkirk said. “Especially at the end of the second period, it took a lot of momentum away from us.”
The game stay knotted until the middle of the third period.
David Backes eluded a hip-check try by Columbus’ Tim Erixon in the offensive zone and was able to feed a centering pass to Perron. As Perron was winding up from the slot, a Columbus stick nearly thwarted the attempt. But the left winger got his shot off, beating Bobrovsky for his sixth goal of the season.
“(Backes) made a real good play to get down there, and I was driving the net,” Perron said. “I fanned on a little bit, but when you’re in a good spot, shots like that find a way in.”
Said Hitchcock: “We really needed that line to step up in the third. They had had a rough night. We needed them to step up in the third and they did. They were a threat every shift in the third period.”