COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Don't bury the Blues-Columbus rivalry just yet. And fans learned Saturday night, don't bury the Blues when they're down.
While the Blues and Blue Jackets were Central Division foes in the Western Conference, the matchup never reached the level of the disdain for Chicago or Detroit by any means. But there's always been an underlying tone in the meetings with the Blue Jackets.
On Saturday night, the first encounter between the teams with Columbus now a member of the Eastern Conference, the Blues and Blue Jackets traded elbows, shoulders and fists in a penalty-filled affair. They traded goals, too, all the way through overtime, where David Backes' 16th tally of the season 22 seconds into OT gave the Blues a 4-3 come-from-behind victory.
The Blues, who trailed 3-1 at one point and 3-2 heading into the third period, put themselves in that position with two goals by Vladimir Tarasenko, a game-tying goal by Chris Stewart and the winner by Backes. But not to be forgotten was goaltender Jaroslav Halak, who stopped the final 26 shots he faced to earn the win.
"I think everybody had a piece in every part of this game, their team and our team," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said.
Backes and Alexander Steen had the last piece. First, Steen pressured Columbus defenseman Fedor Tyutin in the offensive zone, creating a loose puck, and then Backes swooped in and beat Blue Jackets goalie and St. Louis native Mike McKenna for the clincher.
"I let (Tyutin) know I was on the right and cheated on the left," Steen said. "I don't know how it poked out or what happened, but Backes came flying ... it was a big goal for us. This is a big comeback."
The Blues, who wrap up a two-game road trip Monday in Ottawa, won for just the second time this season when trailing after two periods.
"It was a little redemption for the rest of our game," Backes said. "I don't think it was optimal by any means."
The loss went to McKenna, who helped keep the Blue Jackets in the game. The Jackets, in fact, had a couple of chances put the game away, but failed.
Mark Letestu had a clear-cut breakaway with 6 minutes, 46 seconds left in regulation and shot high. Just 19 seconds later, Stewart tied the score 3-3 with his seventh goal of the season, putting in a rebound after a point-shot by defenseman Ian Cole.
That was after Stewart missed the entire second period with a right hand injury suffered in a fight with Columbus' Dalton Prout late in the first period. X-rays were negative, Stewart returned to the bench for the final minute of the second period, but didn't play again until the third.
"It took a little longer than we expected, but you've got to take that precaution and make sure it's alright," Stewart said. "It's always hard watching your teammates battle out there. Anyway you can step up and help the boys, I'm just trying to do my part."
Even after Stewart's goal, Columbus managed its way into the offensive zone in the final seconds of regulation, but the combination of solid backchecking by Patrik Berglund and Halak being in the proper position thwarted a chance by the Blue Jacket's Jack Johnson.
"(Halak) was like the rest of our team," Hitchcock said. "Not a good start, but a great finish."
The Blues took the game's first lead, but while that usually allows the club to take control of the game, it only gave them a false sense of security.
Tarasenko netted his 10th goal of the season just over four minutes into the game. But Columbus' Blake Comeau helped put the Blue Jackets on the board moments later, feeding the puck in front of the net to teammate Artem Anisimov for a 1-1 score with 11:11 left in the opening period.
Columbus took a 2-1 lead with 8:21 left in the period on a goal by Tyutin, following a turnover by Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo.
The game then turned into a whistle-fest, and the Blue Jackets were able to convert one of several power-play opportunities.
Columbus' Matt Calvert dumped Barret Jackman, and when Cole stepped in to address Calvert, the two dropped the gloves. Cole was assessed an extra two minutes for roughing, giving the Blue Jackets a 5-on-3 power play for 41 seconds. Just seven seconds later, Ryan Johansen netted a goal for a 3-1 lead with 6:33 still left in the first period.
The shots between the Blues and Columbus were tied 4-4 at one point, but the Blue Jackets scored on their fifth, sixth and seventh shots of the game for their two-goal cushion. At that point, Halak, who was seeing his first action since facing Anaheim the previous Saturday, had given up six goals on the last 14 shots he had faced.
Halak, however, improved as the game wore on.
"I was happy that I didn't get pulled again tonight," Halak said. "The only thing I said to myself is not to give up any more goals. It was a two-goal hockey game. We score one goal and we are right back in the game. That's what we did."
The Blues scored the only goal of the second period, with Tarasenko picking up his second of the game and 11th of the season on the power play. He put a shot from the top of the circle past McKenna for a 3-2 deficit with 11:27 left.
Columbus had many opportunities to open its lead, but a couple of Blue Jackets blew wide-open chances and Halak turned aside several point-blank shots.
Late in the period, with Derek Roy off for hooking, Halak posted another dandy, shutting out Nick Foligno on the doorstep to keep it a 3-2 score at the end of two periods.
Stewart returned, and tied the score before Backes' heroics. The Blues, however, did finish the game without Vladimir Sobotka, who is day to day with an upper-body injury.
"To me, guys like Chris Stewart showed a lot of guts and courage," Hitchcock said. "His hand was sore, but he ends up scoring the tying goal. I thought from guys like him, they gave us a real inspiration."
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