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Post Game: Blue Jackets 3, Wild 1

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

The Blue Jackets played a strong, composed road game on Saturday night in Boston. Tonight in St. Paul, they took it one step further.

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
Wednesday, 9 p.m. ET
MTS Centre
Winnipeg, MB

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