COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) _ Less than two months ago, Manny Malhotra was unwanted.
He sure is wanted now.
Malhotra received a rousing standing ovation moments after scoring two third-period goals to lead the Columbus Blue Jackets past the St. Louis Blues 3-1 Wednesday night.
``That first goal should be on the highlight reel,'' said Todd Marchant, who also had a goal for the Blue Jackets. ``That was unbelievable _ it was Bobby Orr-esque''
Picked up on waivers from Dallas in November, Malhotra has found a home on the Blue Jackets' third line. He has scored seven goals for Columbus, one fewer than his career best. The two in one game are a career high.
``Our effort and enthusiasm paid off out there,'' said Malhotra, a six-year NHL veteran at 23. ``That was one of the big things Turk (interim coach Gerard Gallant) addressed before the game _ we want to come out with energy and set the tempo of the game rather than sit back and allow them to get chances.''
The win kept Gallant unbeaten at home (2-0-1) and ended the Blues' six-game winning streak over the Blue Jackets.
Marc Denis had 27 saves for Columbus, which came in just 4-10-3-2 against its Western Conference rival and winless in four games this season. The same opponent and the same outcome were getting tiresome for some of the Blue Jackets.
``We kind of wanted this night to be payback,'' Denis said. ``To play these guys as tough as we have all year _ it could have gone both ways and four times it went their way. It was good to find a way to get a second goal, and then a third one, and then shut the door from there. That was kind of fun.''
Chris Pronger notched his 11th goal for the Blues, who were unbeaten in three games (2-0-1).
``I didn't feel like I let in three,'' said St. Louis goaltender Chris Osgood, who had 27 saves. ``Points are big right now and we let it slip away.''
With the score tied 1-1 early in the third period, Malhotra swooped in from the right wing and wristed a shot that Osgood deflected. The rebound trickled to the slot, and Malhotra was able to beat defenseman Bryce Salvador to the spinning puck by diving.
In the same motion, he caught the puck in the curve of his stick and whisked a shot past Osgood, who slammed his stick on the ice in frustration.
``I was a little bit eager,'' Malhotra said. ``I saw that rebound sitting there, just laying there, and nobody was around so I got really aggressive and dove at it as soon as I could. It worked out.''
Malhotra added the clincher with 4:55 remaining, crashing the net to take a pass from Jeremy Reich. He was playing in his first NHL game and earned his first point.
Marchant jammed in a power-play rebound for his seventh goal at 6:56 of the first. Osgood stopped Darryl Sydor's shot from the left point, but Marchant was there to slap the puck in off a bounce.
``Everybody contributed,'' Gallant said. ``It wasn't just two or three guys. It was the whole team.''
With the teams a man down 1:30 into the second, Keith Tkachuk provided traffic in front as Pronger fired a shot from the point. Denis was occupied with Tkachuk to his right as Pronger's hard slap shot zipped past him at the other side of the cage.
``It's a tough loss for us knowing that we probably didn't deserve to win anyway,'' St. Louis coach Joel Quenneville said.