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Blue Jackets 3, Wild 2, SO @NHL

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - When a team is struggling as the Columbus Blue Jackets have been, sometimes it takes a little luck to turn things around.

A hard shot can help, too.

Jaroslav Balastik's goal in the third round of a shootout Wednesday night lifted Columbus to a 3-2 victory over the Minnesota Wild.

Randy Robitaille, who tied the game with 6:33 remaining in regulation when he redirected a shot with his back to the net, was denied by Columbus goalie Pascal Leclaire on Minnesota's final chance.

``The shootout is a lottery,'' Sergei Fedorov said, ``but we scored one and they didn't. We'll take it.''

After Trevor Letowski and Fedorov missed for the Blue Jackets and Marian Gaborik and Mikko Koivu were unsuccessful for the Wild, Balastik scored over Manny Fernandez's right shoulder to give Columbus its second straight win after losing 11 of 12.

Coach Gerard Gallant debated using David Vyborny instead of Balastik, who has played nine games this season without a goal. But he was intrigued by Balastik's slap shot.

After a frustrating overtime period, the Blue Jackets - who have been without star left wing Rick Nash for all but three games because of an injury - were relieved.

``We had two power plays and couldn't score, so I feel like it was meant to be for us to win,'' said Gallant, whose team beat Minnesota in a shootout at home on Oct. 28.

Fedorov, who had an assist, became the first Russian-born NHLer to play in 1,000 career games. Acquired two weeks ago in a trade with Anaheim, the six-time All-Star center - who turns 36 on Dec. 13 - is the 205th player to reach that milestone.

``I'm just happy for this locker room, to overcome the obstacles they've dealt with,'' Fedorov said.

Leclaire made 32 saves, and Letowski and Duvie Westcott each scored in the first period for Columbus. Koivu had a goal for Minnesota, which woke up after skating sluggishly for the first 20 minutes.

The Wild moved within one early in the second period, when the rookie Koivu was in perfect position in front of the crease to sweep a rebound of Brian Rolston's long shot past Leclaire's stick.

Gaborik, whose season has been cut short by injuries to his groin and hip but has four goals and six assists in the six games he's played in, nearly tied it just before the second intermission. He broke down the right wing near the boards, darted to the net, deked Leclaire and watched his wrist shot hit the left post and bounce back.

Leclaire, who got his first victory in five starts, made an impression on Minnesota.

``I think he made some great saves out there,'' coach Jacques Lemaire said. ``He was the best player out there, for sure.''

The Blue Jackets peppered Fernandez in overtime during those two power plays, but they were turned away on all seven shots. Columbus has the league's worst success rate with a man advantage, 10.2 percent coming into the game. The Wild have the NHL's best penalty-kill unit, 89.9 percent before Wednesday.

After controlling the second and third periods, they were disappointed they didn't get to play at full strength for more than one minute. The second penalty, on Kurtis Foster, came for too many men on the ice when he skated to the bench to get a new stick but didn't realize he was supposed to come out.

``I guess he wants to play,'' Lemaire said.

From behind the net, Fedorov fed a wide-open Letowski, whose low shot to Fernandez's stick side hit the post and caromed in for the Blue Jackets' first goal.

Then Westcott, who played in college for St. Cloud State, less than two hours by car from St. Paul, fired a shot between Fernandez's pads to make it 2-0 with 1:07 left in the first period.

Notes: Lemaire has rotated his goalies without naming a No. 1 throughout most of the franchise's five years, but Fernandez's success has made him recently rethink that philosophy. Asked at the team's morning skate who would be starting in net, Lemaire said, ``I think the decision is easy to make,'' without mentioning Fernandez. Roloson is 3-7-1, and Fernandez is 7-3-2. ... Gallant's overtime record is 9-1-4 since taking over as Columbus' coach midway through the 2003-04 season.

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