WILD (22-14-2) 3, BLUE JACKETS (16-16-7) 0
NATIONWIDE ARENA | COLUMBUS, OH
In a battle of two hungry, desperate teams at Nationwide Arena, the Minnesota Wild were first to hit the buffet and clean their plates.
They had lost three straight games entering today's contest and needed these points to stay in the Northwest Division race. On the flip side, the Blue Jackets were looking uphill at a three-point margin separating them from eighth place in the Western Conference standings, but they were stymied by a stingy Wild checking game and goaltender Niklas Backstrom, who was on his game.
Backstrom made 24 saves to record his first career shutout against the Blue Jackets - a team against which he has historically struggled - to propel Minnesota to a 3-0 win front of 15,909 in Columbus. Ryan Suter led the way with a terrific game for the Wild, contributing the game-winning goal on the power play in a big second period for his team and leading all players in time on ice.
When it looked as if the Blue Jackets would be able to clear the zone with the Wild on a power play, they turned the puck over inside their own blue line and Minnesota made them pay. Mikael Granlund zipped a perfect pass to Charlie Coyle at the back post for a 2-0 lead at 15:03, which was more than good enough to seal the deal for the visitors.
Columbus had its opportunities in the third period as the Wild took back-to-back penalties midway through the frame, but the power play wasn't able to sustain attacking zone time and Backstrom handled the rest. Jason Pominville scored his first goal as a Wild with 1:25 to play for the 3-0 final.
Down 1-0, the Blue Jackets got a power play opportunity when Mikko Koivu was whistled for intereference. With a goal on the man advantage, this is probably a completely different hockey game - but the Wild killed it off in impressive fashion and got the biggest goal of the game 10 minutes later. Coyle's sixth of the season was the reward for a strong game for the youngster and it made the mountain a little taller for the Jackets in the third period.
- Gaborik's home debut showed the dynamic skating and playmaking ability the Jackets were looking for. He played 21:44 - tops among all forwards in the game - and fired four shots at Backstrom. His alliance with Vinny Prospal has been entertaining and the two have clicked with both Mark Letestu and Artem Anisimov at center.
- Suter was a horse for the Wild, logging 31:07 (a game-high) with five shots on goal and a +1 rating.
- Ryan Johansen's strong night in the face-off circle meant added possesion time for his line mates, and they were able to establish some territory in the Wild zone. He went 9-for-9 in the circle and was one of three players to go spotless on the draw.
vs. San Jose Sharks
Tuesday, 7 p.m.