Columbus Blue Jackets' Manny Malhotra (27) steals the puck away from St. Louis Blues' Patrik Berglund (21), of Sweden, in the first period of an NHL hockey game, Sunday, March 29, 2009, in Columbus, Ohio. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Terry Gilliam
COLUMBUS, Ohio - The prize is just around the corner, yet the St. Louis Blues won't permit themselves to take a peek.
Patrik Berglund had a goal and two assists and the Blues moved a step closer to a playoff spot with a 5-2 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday.
"We got another two points and we're getting closer and closer," Berglund said. "We want to be in the playoffs so bad. So we really haven't thought about how much we've been climbing, but obviously it's good. But we still have six games left."
T.J. Oshie and David Perron each had a goal and an assist, Brad Boyes and David Backes also scored, and Chris Mason gave up two shaky goals but stopped the other 26 shots he faced.
Columbus is sixth in the West with 86 points, two points ahead of Nashville and three in front of St. Louis. Edmonton, which began the day in a virtual tie with the Blues for the last of the eight playoff spots, is tenth.
The Blues have won five in a row and earned points in seven of eight, rising from the dregs of the West to a tenuous grip on one of those eight precious post-season spots.
"If we're there at the end of the year, then we'll be happy because every night it changes," Mason said. "We're trying to take care of business one (game) at a time. We were focused on today. We'll enjoy this one for a bit. Then we'll worry about our next game."
The Blues, who beat Columbus in a shootout at home on Saturday night, picked up four important points against one of the teams ahead of them in the standings.
"I don't believe in momentum, because I don't know what it is," coach Andy Murray said. "I just know that every game and every sporting event stands on it's own. You've got to go out and establish your own credibility. For us to win two games against them is gratifying because they're a really good team."
Rick Nash had a goal and an assist, and Fedor Tyutin added a goal for Columbus, which had taken points in its last five games and nine of the 10. Rookie goalie Steve Mason, no relation to his counterpart, made 22 saves.
But the Blue Jackets looked listless and uninspired for much of the game, something that coach Ken Hitchcock said could not and would not persist.
"We're going to have to earn our way in. Nobody's going to give us anything," said Hitchcock, whose club is the only one in the NHL never to have played in the post-season. "The disturbing part for us (the last two nights) is we've had people pushed out of the competition. That's something we have to address in the next 24 hours."
Oshie, vilified by the crowd for a running head start he took on a hit on Nash the night before, quieted the boo-birds with an early goal.
He said the Blues aren't taking time to savour how far they've come.
"It feels good to be where we're at, considering where we were," he said. "We all know we're not done yet. We've got games left. It's definitely not settled."
After each goalie gave up soft goals, Perron added some insurance when he skated in unimpeded from the right wing, faked defenceman Mike Commodore in the slot and then lifted a backhander over Steve Mason's right shoulder to make it 3-1 midway through the third period.
Sloppy defence led to three goals - two by the Blues - in a span of 2:22 that put the game out of reach.
Much of the crowd of 17,095 was long gone by then.
"You've got to give St. Louis credit," Hitchcock said. "They pushed us hard - they pushed us into areas that we weren't comfortable. They're relentless and they work. We have too many people who did not respond."
Notes: The Blues began a five-game road trip. Only one of their six remaining games is at home - Columbus on April 10. ... The Blue Jackets had a two-game home win streak end. They are 24-12-2 at Nationwide Arena. ... Perron extended his points streak to four games (2-4-6), as did Berglund (3-3-6).
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