The Blue Jackets played a strong, composed road game on Saturday night in Boston. Tonight in St. Paul, they took it one step further.
BLUE JACKETS 3 | WILD 1
In what was perhaps one of their best road efforts of the season, the Blue Jackets put the clamps on a Minnesota Wild team coming off back-to-back victories and trying to stay alive in an ultra-competitive Western Conference playoff race. Columbus, doing its best to remain in the postseason chase, was the better team for a large portion of its 3-1 victory at Xcel Energy Center - its second straight road win and eighth of 10 overall.
Leading the way was James Wisniewski, whose 50th career goal was the game-winner at 5:35 of the third period, a power play marker set up beautifully by Nick Foligno behind the net. Wisniewski added two assists for a three-point effort to earn No. 1 star honors, but not far behind him was the man between the pipes.
All-Star netminder Sergei Bobrovsky was up to his usual tricks in Minnesota, a place where he’s turned in some memorable performances the last few seasons. He made 25 saves, including 12 in a whirlwind second period, allowing only a first period power play goal to Zach Parise on a nifty defection in front of the net.
The Blue Jackets kept a clean house in front of him, clearing rebounds and allowing very few second chance opportunities for a Wild team that boasts quite the arsenal of skill up front. Brandon Dubinsky scored a huge opening goal just 7:57 into the game, taking a Wisniewski stretch pass and ripping a shot over Devan Dubnyk’s shoulder for an early 1-0 lead, and the Blue Jackets shrugged off the Parise goal and dodged some bullets the rest of the way.
One of those close calls was a penalty shot for Parise in the second period after David Savard impeded him on a breakaway. Bobrovsky was up to the task, out-waiting Parise on a forehand deke before Parise ran out of real estate and the puck slid wide of the net.
An apparent goal for Ryan Suter was called back on a delayed penalty to the Blue Jackets, and it was a high-sticking double minor to Savard. This is where the game turned in the Jackets’ favor: they were outstanding on the kill, and it was soon a frustrated Minnesota club as the four minutes passed without any change in the score.
“It was a huge effort,” Bobrovsky said. “A huge moment (in the game). The guys were great tonight. They worked hard…they were unbelievable.”
Wisniewski’s go-ahead goal was supplemented by a tip-in by Scott Hartnell - off a Wisniewski point shot, no less - with 3:03 left in regulation to get the Jackets a clutch insurance marker.
This wasn’t a tough task tonight: the four-minute penalty kill late in the second period was not only (impressively) killed off by the Blue Jackets, it sapped a lot of Minnesota’s moment from a strong period in which they carried the play. In the middle of it all was Alexander Wennberg, who played nearly 17 minutes and was a fixture on the penalty kill, taking many important face-offs inside his own zone and steadying the Jackets while shorthanded.
at Winnipeg Jets
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