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Jackets Drop Blues

Thursday, 04.13.2006 / 12:00 AM / News
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Jackets Drop Blues
(AP) - Pascal Leclaire is learning how to win, just like the rest of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Leclaire stopped 26 shots and four players scored goals to lead the Blue Jackets to a 4-1 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night, handing the Blues their eighth straight road loss.

"I saw a lot of clean shots tonight," Leclaire said. "The guys did a great job. And when they (the Blues) came inside we had great balance in front of the net, so it was a really well-played game."

Sergei Fedorov, Mark Hartigan, Aaron Johnson and Manny Malhotra had goals for the Blue Jackets, who ended a three-game losing skid that came on the heels of a franchise-best six-game winning streak.

Rostislav Klesla had two assists for Columbus, which now has 70 points - one fewer than the franchise high during its inaugural 2000-01 season. Fedorov also had an assist.

Leclaire, the eighth player taken in the opening round of the 2001 draft, has won four of his last five starts.

"We wanted to come out really strong," Leclaire said. "Our last game in Dallas, we started playing in the third period and we almost came back. Tonight we wanted to make sure we played a strong 60 minutes. We came out really strong and went to the net. To win you need to do that."

Leclaire's play has improved in the second half of the season, paralleling the Blue Jackets' fortunes. He is 9-6-2 in his last 18 starts after starting 2-8-1.

Coach Gerard Gallant is pleased with the play of his youngsters, particularly the 23-year-old Leclaire.

"They are working hard and competing hard and proving they belong in the NHL," Gallant said. "They're doing their jobs."

olumbus is 21-16-3 since Jan. 1 after winning just 12 of its first 29 games.

The Blues continue to have trouble scoring. Jamal Mayers had a goal, giving the Blues just five goals in their last five games.

"We did a good job with the forwards collapsing down low," right wing Lee Stempniak said. "But we're not going to win many games scoring one goal."

St. Louis has won one of its last 16 games.

"We've got a lot of young kids that have to learn how to have a killer instinct when they have a chance on the net," coach Mike Kitchen said.

The first period was about what one would expect from two teams eliminated from the playoff picture several weeks ago. There were few prime scoring opportunities and the Blues had difficulty clearing the puck.

The Blue Jackets scored twice in 78 seconds in the second period.

Fedorov's hard slap shot from near the right dot beat goaltender Jason Bacashihua high on the glove side. Fedorov's power-play goal was his 10th of the season.

The Blue Jackets came in last in the NHL with a man advantage at home, converting just 14.1 percent of their chances.

Hartigan scored his sixth goal in the last eight games - he had only one in his first 22 - to make it 2-0. Jan Hrdina redirected Jaroslav Balastik's shot from the right point, with Hartigan pouncing on the rebound.

Mayers cut the lead in half with his 50th career goal midway through the period. Lee Stempniak beat a Columbus player to the puck on the back wall and then tossed a blind pass to Petr Cajanek for a cross-crease setup to Mayers.

even minutes into the third period, the Blue Jackets made it 3-1 when Johnson scored off a nifty pass from Fedorov on a 3-on-2.

"Sergei read the play great and he managed to find me over there," Johnson said.

Malhotra added a late goal, collecting a rebound and then lofting the puck over a diving Bacashihua.

"We're playing really solid hockey right now," Leclaire said. "Everybody wants to finish strong."

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