As much as he tried to downplay it, Todd Richards finally admitted that beating his former team wasn't just another win.
Rookie defenseman David Savard's first NHL goal helped the Columbus Blue Jackets beat the Minnesota Wild 3-1 on Tuesday night, giving Richards a win in his first game against the team that fired him last spring.
"My message to them was that I'll sleep pretty good tonight and enjoy this one," Richards said when asked what he told his players.
Richards went 77-71-16 in two seasons with the Wild from 2009-11 before being fired last April. He is 4-7-1 with Columbus since taking over for Scott Arniel on Jan. 9.
Jeff Carter scored his second goal in as many games after missing 10 with a shoulder injury, and Antoine Vermette had a power-play goal for the Jackets. Curtis Sanford made 28 saves – allowing only a first-period goal by Nate Prosser – as Columbus won back-to-back games.
"We wanted to come out with our best effort and get a big win," Carter said.
The Wild barely maintained eighth place in the West -- they are tied with Phoenix at 58 points, but are ahead of the Coyotes because they've played one fewer game.
"The reality is that I don't think we deserved to win the game," coach Mike Yeo said. "It's a game of one-on-one battles and they got the better of us - by a large margin - in that department tonight."
Columbus outshot Minnesota 14-7 during a physical first period.
"I thought we were tremendous in the first period, -- great energy, great commitment to winning hockey," Richards said.
After Derek Dorsett's big check on Prosser behind the Wild goal, the two had a fight at 7:10 of the period. Less than two minutes later, Savard fired a shot from the point through traffic that went past Backstrom at 8:59.
"You never know when it's going to happen," Savard said after scoring in his 18th NHL game. "The first one's done so hopefully there's more to come."
Prossser tied at it 18:39 when he beat Sanford with a screened one-timer.
In the second period, Sanford kicked away a hard Erik Christensen power-play shot to keep the game even.
Vermette put Columbus ahead at 15:31 of the second, sliding a backhander from the slot past Backstrom for his seventh goal of the season – and first in 11 games – to make it 2-1. Carter jammed home a rebound for his 12th of the season at 5:38 of the third for some insurance.
"It was a really good effort, especially coming off a long road trip," said Sanford, who was in goal for Friday's win at Anaheim, the finale of a swing through California. "Sometimes it takes a while to get our energy back when you come home, but I thought we jumped out there pretty good and carried it over throughout 60 minutes."
That's something the Wild didn't do. Minnesota, which has played 19 of its last 27 games on the road, didn't appear to have a lot of jump.
“This is just another one of those ones where say we need to move past it,” Yeo said.
Material from team media was used in this report