Todd Richards tried hard to downplay the importance of beating his former employer tonight at Nationwide Arena, but even he admitted this 3-1 victory was special.
The Blue Jackets controlled the pace of the game against a Minnesota Wild club fighting for its playoff life, reaching the crucial three-goal mark at 5:38 of the third period on a Jeff Carter goal. The Wild came into the game owning a 3-16-5 record when holding opponents to two goals or less, but the Blue Jackets added one to the loss column in this game. David Savard’s first career goal and first career multi-point game sparked Columbus to its first back-to-back wins since Nov. 19-21, 2011 – a span of 31 games.
Savard got things going for the Blue Jackets when his one-timer rocketed behind Niklas Backstrom at 8:59 of the opening period with some help from heavy traffic in the slot. It was a long shift and a delayed penalty sequence for the Wild, who couldn’t keep up with Columbus’ puck movement and yielded the icebreaking goal.
Nate Prosser scored on a slap shot of his own late in the first period to even the score at 1-1. The Blue Jackets were caught in their own zone and couldn’t clear the puck, and Prosser made them pay – but Columbus made sure that was the last of the Wild offense for the evening.
With Minnesota defenseman Nick Schultz in the box for his second of four minor penalties in the game, Antoine Vermette slid a backhander through Backstrom to give the Blue Jackets a 2-1 lead at 15:31 of the second period. Rick Nash feathered a pass down low and it was tipped to Vermette, who collected the loose puck and cashed his seventh goal of the year.
Columbus capped off the scoring on Carter’s 12th of the season and second in as many games at 5:38 of the final period. Another Savard point shot got through to Backstrom and was helped into the crease by Vinny Prospal, creating mass chaos in and around the Minnesota net. Carter was on-point to tap home the rebound and give the Blue Jackets a largely important goal.
The Wild’s best period was the second period, out-shooting Columbus 13-9 in the frame and taking some of the Blue Jackets’ momentum back from the first 20 minutes. But as Schultz was sent off for hooking at 15:23, the Columbus power play went to work and scored the eventual game-winning goal. Vermette’s goal required just eight seconds to execute and turn the tide back in his team’s favor.
Prospal has points in three-straight games after recording an assist on Savard’s goal. He has 0-3-3 during that stretch after being held pointless the previous nine games. In 17 career games against the Wild, he has tallied 3-7-10.
Nash has assists in back-to-back games after picking up a helper on Vermette’s goal. He has 5-3-8 the last 14 games, as well as 13-10-23 the last 34 games. In 31 career games against Minnesota, he has 13-11-24.
Fedor Tyutin snapped a nine-game pointless skid with an assist on Vermette’s goal. He last had a point with an assist Jan. 13 vs. Phoenix. In 295 games with the Blue Jackets, he has notched 25-88-113 compared to 15-52-67 in 251 games with the New York Rangers.
Colton Gillies notched his first assist in seven games with a helper on Carter’s goal. He last had an assist Jan. 17 vs. Edmonton. He has points in two of the last three games after going pointless the previous five games.
Curtis Sanford stopped 28-of-29 shots on the night to earn his 10th win of the season. He has allowed two or fewer goals in seven of his last 11 starts. He is 5-5-1 with a 2.25 goals-against average and .927 save percentage in those games after posting a 3.70 goals-against average and .880 save percentage his previous eight starts.
vs. Dallas Stars
Nationwide Arena | Columbus, Ohio
Tuesday, 7 p.m.
TV: FOX Sports Ohio (HD)
Radio: 97.1 The Fan & BlueJackets.com