Huselius leads Jackets into playoff spot as Columbus win 4-3 over Avs

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COLUMBUS, Ohio - Kristian Huselius and the Blue Jackets feel they're now a team that can win games in the third period.

Huselius had a goal and two assists and the Columbus Blue Jackets scored three times in the final period to beat the Colorado Avalanche 4-3 on Tuesday night for their third straight win.

"It was a big win and it's nice to get going again," said Huselius, playing his second game after missing two with a concussion.

R.J. Umberger had a goal and assist, rookie Jakub Voracek and Michael Peca also scored for the Blue Jackets, which won its seventh in nine games.

"We knew if we were tied or better going in the third, we could take the game over and win it," Umberger said.

Chris Stewart had a goal and assist, and Marek Svatos and Ryan Smyth tallied for Colorado, who had a three-game winning streak snapped. Brett Clark added two assists.

Tied 1-all after two periods, the teams combined for five goals in 3:41 in the third with Columbus taking a 4-2 lead on Peca's wrist shot from the slot for his fourth at 9:11. Smyth pulled Colorado to 4-3 with a power-play score from close range at 10:27 with his 15th.

"We like scoring the goals in the third, obviously," Peca said. "We don't like giving them up. I think we've got the team now that can win games in the third period. We're sticking with it. We're showing a lot of poise and a lot of patience."

Columbus rookie goalie Steve Mason had 23 saves to improve to 16-9-1, while Andrew Raycroft (9-2) also stopped 23 and had his seven-game winning streak end.

"It was a lot of pucks just thrown at the net trying to win battles for opportunities," Avalanche coach Tony Granato said. "They were able to do it better than us tonight."

The Blue Jackets have won all three meeting between the clubs.

Umberger one-timed a centring pass from defenceman Kris Russell over Raycroft for his 13th on a power play at 6:46 of the third period to make it 2-1.

"We got a little slow start but I thought as the game was going along we looked like we were frustrating them and we were taking it over," Umberger said.

Stewart responded just under a minute later with a long shot from the right circle that hit Mason's glove and caromed into the net for his fourth.

Huselius said the players wanted to respond for Mason, the league's save percentage leader, who has let in few soft goals while backstopping wins in many tight games.

"Mason has been playing unbelievable for us and we all know that," he said. "It was a knuckle puck. Those shots are going to happen once in a while to any goalie in the league. It was nice to get the lead right after and get the momentum back."

Huselius scored his 13th at 8:41 to make it 3-2 after working a give-and-go with Manny Malhotra out of the right corner and scoring with a low shot through traffic in the slot, and Peca scored 30 seconds later.

"It was a sense of urgency on both sides," Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock said. "There were times when neither teams' defence could handle the other teams' forwards."

Svatos stuffed home a loose puck near the crease at 17:15 of the first period for his seventh to start the scoring.

Columbus pulled even at 18:11 of the second period on a hectic play that Voracek finished at 18:11 for his sixth. After a Huselius rush, Voracek threw his own rebound into the crease and Raycroft pushed the puck into his own net while scurrying back into position.

Notes: After going 1-19-2 in the first 25 meetings between the clubs, the Blue Jackets have gone 6-3 in the past nine contests. ...The Avalanche had five regulars out of the lineup, including C Joe Sakic. Columbus was missing seven regulars led by LW Rick Nash, their leading scorer. ...The Blue Jackets have won eight of nine at home.


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