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POST-GAME: vs. Minnesota

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

The Minnesota Wild looked every bit the part of a road-weary club in the opening 20 minutes. Shortly thereafter, they woke up.

It was an authoritative first period for the Blue Jackets, who came flying out of the gates and took a 2-0 lead before the game was 11 minutes old. Antoine Vermette finally broke out of his early-season scoring slump and notched his first of the year at 6:51, following up his own rebound on a tremendous individual effort. With the Blue Jackets killing a penalty, Vermette out-hustled Wild defenseman Marek Zidlicky and buried the puck behind Niklas Backstrom.

Less than four minutes later, the Blue Jackets’ second power-play unit drew up one of its best-looking tallies of the season. Nikita Nikitin sent a cross-ice pass to the waiting stick of Mark Letestu, who one-timed the puck through Backstrom’s pads at 10:42. The Blue Jackets took a 2-0 lead into the dressing room for the first time this season, and held a 18-6 shot advantage in the opening frame.

Minnesota came to life in the final two periods. Matt Cullen (power-play goal) and Nick Johnson scored 20 seconds apart midway through the second to tie the game at 2-2, and it would stay that way until the 7:38 mark of the third period. Pierre-Marc Bouchard left a drop pass for Cal Clutterbuck, who ripped the puck off the far post and in, giving the Wild its first lead of the game.

The Blue Jackets re-applied the heat as the clock ticked away in the third, and nearly tied the game with Backstrom flopping in the crease. Rick Nash found the puck in his skates with a wide-open cage at the top of the blue paint, but clanged it off the post and trickled into the corner. Devin Setoguchi scored his fifth goal of the season into the empty net with seven seconds remaining.

Minnesota’s body language was not all that positive leaving the ice after the first period, and they came out of the locker room rejuvenated to start the second. The long change got the Blue Jackets caught with too many men on the ice at 9:05, sending the Wild to its third power play of the game.

This time, they cashed in with a big goal. Jared Spurgeon let a shot go from the blue line, and Kyle Brodziak took a whack at it before the puck bounced toward Matt Cullen in the low right-hand circle. Cullen collected the rebound and buried the backhander, giving new life to the Wild. Columbus was 33 seconds from escaping unscathed, and the goal against ended up being an important moment in the hockey game.

- The Blue Jackets owned the puck for much of the game, but the second period was costly. The 45 shots on goal by Columbus are the most this season and most since the club had 45 on Apr. 8, 2011 at Nashville. It is the third time this season the club has had 40-plus shots on goal.

- Columbus has scored the first goal of the game six times this season. The club is 3-3-0 in those games. The Blue Jackets are now 19-17-4 all-time against Minnesota, including a 13-6-1 mark at Nationwide Arena.

- Vermette inched one point closer to career point No. 300 with his beautiful goal to open the scoring. He snapped a 21-game goalless skid with his first of the season, as he last scored Mar. 31, 2011 at Washington. The goal was shorthanded, his first since Dec. 13, 2010, a span of 71 games. Vermette has collected 1-6-7 the last 11 games after opening the season pointless the first six games.

- Grant Clitsome is starting to get his name on the scoresheet more often. He has points in three of the past four games after notching an assist on Letestu’s goal. Since being a healthy scratch Nov. 3 vs. Toronto, he has 3-1-4 the last four games after being held to 0-3-3 the previous nine games.

- Letestu has goals in two of the past three games after scoring his second of the season tonight. Before he was acquired by the Blue Jackets on Nov. 8, he had 0-1-1 in 11 games with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

vs. Boston Bruins
TD Garden | Boston, MA
Thursday, 7 p.m.
TV: FOX Sports Ohio (HD)
Radio: 97.1 The Fan &

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