The biggest concern for the Blue Jackets heading into last night’s game against the St. Louis Blues was whether they would be able to score enough goals to win.
Given the way the Jackets had played with the puck in their past two games, and given the way the Blues have played under former Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock, the Blue Jackets privately were worried that they wouldn’t be able to score at all.
So what unfolded last night was more than a little surprising — but still not good news for the Blue Jackets.
In a wildly physical game that seemed like a tinderbox on the verge of igniting, the Blues put together a four-goal third period and prevailed 6-4 before 18,611 in the Scottrade Center.
“They’re the hottest team in the NHL,” Blue Jackets winger Derek Dorsett said. “And we’re fragile. That’s where we’re at.
“We played well at times, and I thought we could have won that game with a couple of bounces here or there. But when one thing goes wrong, it seems like it just crumbles on us.”
Derek MacKenzie, Mark Letestu, R.J. Umberger and Dorsett scored for the Blue Jackets, and goaltender Steve Mason — who got the unexpected start after Curtis Sanford suffered back spasms — stopped 28 of 33 shots.
The Blue Jackets are only the second club to surpass three goals against the Blues since Hitchcock was allowed to leave the Jackets and take over in St. Louis 19 games ago. Chicago was the other.
“We had a lot of chances, a lot of opportunities,” Blue Jackets coach Scott Arniel said. “We had them out of their rhythm and out of their game for a bit there, but we, again, made some mistakes.
“When the game is late and the score is tight, that’s when you have to get tough and get through those. We aren’t able to do that right now.”
The game featured four lead changes, the last of which came in the third period, which has been one of the Blue Jackets’ many glaring problems this season.
After taking a 3-2 lead on Letestu’s power-play goal with only 1.3 seconds left in the second period, the Blue Jackets headed into the third with a lead.
But for the fifth time this season, it slipped away.
Only 58 seconds into the period, the Blues tied it when Alex Steen fired a loose puck past a sprawled-out Mason. The Blue Jackets thought the puck arrived there thanks to a high-stick deflection by T.J. Oshie, but officials did not concur.
“It’s a judgment call by a ref,” Arniel said. “The bad part is, you can’t review it. We went and looked at it (after the game), and in our opinion, it’s a high stick.
“It gets you back on your heels, you’ve got the building alive again. It got them back into it.”
The Blues made it 4-3 on Jason Arnott’s goal at 6:43 of the third and 5-3 when Alex Pietrangelo scored at 12:08, his second goal of the night.
The Jackets pulled to 5-4 with 4:09 to play on Brassard’s goal, but a Blues empty-netter with 44.6 seconds left provided the final score.
“It wasn’t a clean game,” Hitchcock said. “There were mistakes on both sides. But the way we played in the third period, I was impressed.
“We sucked it up, found our legs, really went at them and took the game back.”