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Zherdev Flashes Signs Of Wow In Jackets Win

Nikolai Zherdev scored with 23 seconds remaining in regulation to force a tie game while Jaroslav Balastik put it away in overtime as the Columbus Jackets snapped a six game losing streak defeating the Chicago Blackhawks 4-3 in exciting fashion.Martin Lapointe, Anton Babchuk and Duncan Keith scored for the Blackhawks. Interestingly enough, their goals were on a penalty kill, power play and even strength for the trifecta. Chicago has lost four in a row and six of seven, including a similar defeat to Detroit just before Christmas.

In that game, Detroit came from 2 goals behind with 39 seconds left to tie the game and then win it with less than a second left in OT.Columbus came out firing the first four shots on goal, but Chicago goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin made good soft saves, not allowing any scoring chance rebounds. Martin Lapointe got his seventh goal of the year and get Chicago on the board first at 3:38 of the first period.Rostislav Klesla would add his second of the year with less than four minutes remaining in the period to give the Jackets a 1-1 tie. Klesla took a hard slapshot from the blue line which zipped past Khabibulin. "I just waited for the one-time pass (from Hainsey)," he said.

"The goalie didn't see it.".At 1:57 of the second period, defenseman Adam Foote put Columbus ahead 2-1. During a Chicago power play, former Jacket Jaroslav Spacek tried to ease the pass to his forward, but Klesla intercepted the puck and saw Zherdev exiting the penalty box.

Zherdev moved the puck into the offensive zone and spotted Foote speeding down the left side. Foote slammed the puck home from the top of the circle for his second short handed goal of the season.At 5:18 of the second period, Anton Babchuk (2) tied the game 2-2 on a power play goal.

With Cale Hulse in the box for hooking, Chicago put a flurry of shots on goaltender Marc Denis, shooting at all angles. Tyler Arneson got the puck back out to Babchuk who used the traffic in front of Denis to get the puck through.Chicago took the lead at 12:24 of the period. During a Columbus power play, Duncan Keith lofted a soft shot past Denis.Chicago outshot Columbus 45-32, but could not put the game away. "We had plenty of opportunities to put the game away," Chicago head coach Trent Yawney said.

"It's maturity, in terms of recognizing where you are in the game. When you have the opportunity to put the game away, put it away. There was plenty of opportunities for us to make that game basically out of reach.".Just as the the game was winding down, Columbus pulled Denis and with a sixth skater, Zherdev, on the ice things became fun for the 17,440 fans in attendance.

Zherdev picked up speed, went through four Chicago defenders, and was able to put the shot on goal. As he was still flying up towards the net, he was able to flick the rebound back into the net just as he was tripping over Khabibulin's pads. It was an acrobatic feat that will make most of the highlight reels."Going coast to coast is rare for me this season, but I think it's what I do best," Zherdev said through an interpreter. "I think it was the most important goal of my life right now.

"."Not too often does pulling the goalie work, but we had the great effort up the ice and Z (Nikolai Zherdev) scored that goal." head coach Gerard Gallant said. "Hopefully it will get the guys going. It was a big goal for use and it was a big two points.".

In Overtime and on the Jackets fourth shot in the extra session, Radoslav Suchy would spot an open Jaroslav Balastik who slammed the puck past Khabibulin for the win."I'm playing good right now and I think I'm playing with confidence," Balastik said. "Nikolai (Zherdev) scored a very nice goal and it was a big goal for us I got a chance to score a big goal.

I think it's going to help my confidence in the next few games.".


By: Dave Weissman


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