Blue Jackets 2, Ducks 1 (OT): Letestu’s goal caps wild month

By The Columbus Dispatch  • 
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BROOKE LAVALLEY | DISPATCH
The Blue Jackets celebrate their victory in overtime.

After playing three games in four nights in western Canada, the Blue Jackets flew across the breadth of North America on Saturday with weary legs and bruised bodies. The hectic schedule has taken a toll, but it has not yet reached their spirit.

The Blue Jackets hung on for dear life in the third period last night against mighty Anaheim, then claimed their latest improbable win on Mark Letestu’s goal with 1:00 remaining in overtime.

The win pushes the Blue Jackets — if only for a day — into sole possession of eighth place in the madcap Western Conference. It also capped a stunning month of March, in which the Blue Jackets went 10-2-4 (24 points), the best month in franchise history.

“I’m really pleased and really proud,” coach Todd Richards said. “I think we hit a wall there in the third period. I think Anaheim stepped it up a little bit and forced us to play a faster, harder game in the third period, but our tanks were running on fumes.”

Letestu, who assisted an earlier goal by Derick Brassard, took a feed from defenseman Nikita Nikitin low in the left circle and scored over the shoulder of Ducks goaltender Jonas Hiller.

It was Letestu’s ninth goal of the season, and his first game-winner as a Blue Jacket.

Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky was sterling again, making 29 saves for his 12th win.

“It’s a big win for us because we knew this was going to be a real test,” Letestu said. “They’re a big club. They lean on you. The third period is always harder than the first, so we had to find a way.

“I’m proud and really happy that I scored that goal for us, but I know the guys in this room. If I didn’t score it, somebody else would have. That’s just how we’re going right now.”

Letestu helped create Brassard’s goal at 9:34 of the second, when he intentionally fired the puck wide of the net and off the end boards, the carom sending it right to Brassard on the doorstep.

The Ducks didn’t tie it until 5:55 of the third after a series of long shifts in the Blue Jackets’ zone. Anaheim’s Bryan Allen forced a turnover by R.J. Umberger, and Andrew Cogliano fed Emerson Etem for a clean look at Bobrovsky.

Anaheim outshot the Blue Jackets 17-1 in the third period. Columbus didn’t make Hiller make a stop until 3:34 remained in regulation.

“The guys want it. You can see it,” Richards said. “You can talk about the battle and the compete; that’s how they’re playing. They sense it. They believe. There’s hope. Those are some powerful things.”

In overtime, the Blue Jackets seemed the more energized team in the open ice of four-on-four play. Letestu’s goal was their fourth shot on Hiller.

“It feels pretty good right now to be in the top eight,” Brassard said. “We’re working hard at it. It’s not going to be easy, but we’re trying to create a buzz around here.”

The Blue Jackets, who have earned a point in 12 straight home games, now have three days without a game for the first time since mid-February.

“We knew coming in that we had five home games left this season and those are 10 points we have to have,” Letestu said. “We absolutely have to have them.”

aportzline@dispatch.com

@aportzline

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