Unfortunately for the home team, there's no question who was the best player.
Minnesota had Grade-A scoring chances all night long, but beat Columbus goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky only twice on 41 shots as the Blue Jackets beat the Wild 3-2 in a shootout at Xcel Energy Center.
"We were relying on [Bobrovsky] way too much, he had to be way too good," Columbus coach Todd Richards said. "We should be happy to get two points, but I want to see us do things right over and over."
Mark Letestu and Cam Atkinson scored against Niklas Backstrom in the tiebreaker, while Bobrovsky stopped Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu to give the Blue Jackets the extra point and a successful start to a six-game road trip. The Blue Jackets (19-16-7) have 45 points, the same as the eighth-place Dallas Stars and ninth-place Detroit Red Wings -- both of whom have a game in hand in the battle for playoff berths in the Western Conference.
"I think we played better last night [in a 4-1 win over the St. Louis Blues] than we did tonight," Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson said. "Sometimes you have to win some games you shouldn't."
The loss was Minnesota's third straight -- all at home -- though the single point gives the seventh-place Wild 47 and a two-point lead on the three teams behind them. Backstrom made 20 saves through 65 minutes, but was beaten easily by Letestu and Atkinson in the tiebreaker.
Bobrovsky was outstanding all night long, making a number of fantastic saves including several in the game's opening 20 minutes. The Wild outshot the Jackets 15-6 in the first period, but could only score once. Minnesota coach Mike Yeo said he had scoring chances after one at 10-0 in his team's favor.
"We did an awful lot of good things," Yeo said. "Their goalie was, obviously, extremely good."
Even the first goal that beat Bobrovsky went off a Columbus skate -- Brett Clark's shot was tipped by Pierre-Marc Bouchard in front and Bobrovsky made the save, but the rebound came out to the right post and was kicked into the net by Johnson at 15:59.
The goal snapped Minnesota's scoreless streak at 137:24.
"We had a couple of lapses and it cost us two goals," Wild forward Devin Setoguchi said. "We have yet to play 60 minutes and 10 minutes cost us."
Columbus led 2-1 until the Wild's Jason Pominville slammed home a rebound with 3:15 left in regulation, getting Minnesota a huge point in the standings. An 0-3-0 homestand likely would have been devastating to the team's confidence as it heads out on a three-game trip of its own starting Monday in Calgary.
Instead, Yeo said he believes Minnesota's game is something the team could build on as it heads into the home stretch of a season which two weeks ago seemed destined to include its first playoff berth in five years.
"This has the potential to be that kind of game," Yeo said. "That's a huge point for us. When you're down and you have a goalie that's playing like that, to tie it up, that's a big point."
Both teams played all but 17 seconds of the contest down a forward. On the game's first shift, Wild winger Charlie Coyle barreled over Jackets forward Artem Anisimov near the half wall in the Columbus zone. Brandon Dubinsky came to Anisimov's aid, instigating a fight with Coyle.
Afterwards, the officials met near the penalty box and assessed Coyle a match penalty for contact to the head. Anisimov left the ice and did not return, suffering an upper-body injury.
Columbus skated with a three-minute power play after Dubinsky's instigator expired, but the Jackets were without him for virtually the entire first period as he also served five for fighting and a 10-minute misconduct.
"We needed everyone," Richards said. "There were times when we were missing a lot of guys. We needed more from them."
Dubinsky also assisted on both goals for Columbus, including a spin-o-rama pass from behind the net to Prospal in the slot, who hammered home a one-timer to tie the game at 3:53 of the second.
Tyutin's shot from the top of the left circle beat Backstrom after the Jackets kept the Wild's third line hemmed in its own zone for 1:11.
Yeo saw the hit in question much differently than the officials, and said he believed his team would come away from the scrap with a two-minute power play.
Instead, his team was down its first line right wing all night just a day after Yeo had reshuffled his team's lines in practice to try and create more scoring chances.
"That's the tough part," Yeo said. "There's a different guy going out with a different guy all night long. You might be overusing guys in some situations, but even just to start the game like that… the way I see it, it's a great hit and we should be on the power play."
After traveling to face the Colorado Avalanche on Monday, the Jackets head to the west coast for a critical stretch against the Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks and Dallas Stars -- the latter three are all within five points of the Jackets in the standings.
Minnesota has winnable games against the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers -- both non-contending teams -- before a test in San Jose on Thursday. The fifth-place Sharks lead the Wild by two points.
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