COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Columbus backup goalie Joonas Korpisalo had lost three straight starts since his last victory on Jan. 18. He found out Tuesday morning he’d be playing in place of a sick Sergei Bobrovsky against the Pacific Division-leading Vegas Golden Knights, and he turned in a gem.
The 23-year-old Finn stopped 37 shots, and the Blue Jackets beat Vegas 4-1 and hung onto the second wild card in the Eastern Conference.
“The team likes playing in front of him,” Columbus coach John Tortorella said. “There have been a few struggles here and there, but he was solid right from the get-go tonight.”
Korpisalo got some offensive help in a tight-checking game that reflected the urgency for the Blue Jackets, who are battling Florida and Carolina — both of which lost Tuesday — for the final wild card.
Artemi Panarin and Pierre Luc-Dubois each had a goal and two assists, and Zach Werenski and Ian Cole also scored for the Blue Jackets, winners of two straight and four of their last six.
“A lot of times this year, I think, (Korpisalo) went in and he was playing well but we weren’t playing our best hockey,” Dubois said. “For him to play so good tonight and to get that win, I know everybody in here is happy for him.”
Marc-Andre Fleury — a Blue Jacket-killer in the playoffs last year for Pittsburgh — had 17 saves for the Golden Knights, who have lost four of five.
“Overall I think we got better and better as game went on,” Vegas winger David Perron said. “We just couldn’t get that second goal.”
Panarin slammed in a rebound for his team-leading 21st goal of the season just 16 seconds after the opening faceoff.
Vegas, in its first visit to Columbus, knotted the score 90 seconds into the second period when Erik Haula snapped in a shot from the slot for his 24th goal. Haula is one of five Vegas forwards to have 20 or more goals this season.
Werenski put the Blue Jackets up 2-1 at 8:01 of the second when he powered a one-timer through Fleury’s pads from beyond the left circle after a pass from Panarin. The tally by the 20-year-old Werenski was his 13th of the season, a franchise record for defensemen.
Cole made it 3-1 at 9:47 of the second with his first goal as a Blue Jacket after being acquired at the trade deadline. Dubois capped the scoring with an empty-net goal with 2:21 left.
“It’s been tough the last four weeks,” Korpisalo said. “To finally get a win and help the team, it felt good. It’s something I can build on right now.”
NOTES: Vegas’ leading scorer, William Karlsson, was cheered during first trip back to Columbus after being snagged from the Blue Jackets in the expansion draft. … Vegas F Reilly Smith left the game in the second period and didn’t return after taking a hit from Columbus D David Savard. His condition was not available. … A goal by Dubois at 6:14 in the first period was waved off after a replay determined Cam Atkinson was offside when he carried the puck into the zone. … G Jeff Zatkoff dressed after an emergency recall from Cleveland of the American Hockey League to back up Korpisalo. … Vegas F Pierre-Edouard Bellemare returned after missing seven games with a hand injury. … Atkinson has 15 points in his last 19 games after missing 11 games with a fractured foot suffered in late December.
Vegas: Plays at Detroit on Thursday night.
Columbus: Hosts Colorado on Thursday night.