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McElhinney, Blue Jackets shut out Wild

by Craig Merz

COLUMBUS -- The Curtis McElhinney Era got off to a rousing start for the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday.

His first game as the No. 1 goalie in place of injured Sergei Bobrovsky ended with a 4-0 victory against the Minnesota Wild.

"It feels good to step in there and do the job when you know the No. 1 guy is injured," McElhinney said.

He made 20 saves, giving the Blue Jackets consecutive shutouts after defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning 1-0 Tuesday. Bobrovsky stopped the first 18 shots in that game before sustaining a strained groin that will keep the 2013 Vezina Trophy winner out 4-5 weeks. McElhinney had eight saves vs. the Lightning.

Friday, he got credit for his third career shutout in 78 NHL games on a relatively easy night that was backed by goals from Cam Atkinson and Nick Foligno in the second period and Boone Jenner and RJ Umberger in the third.

"Hopefully this is the start of something good," McElhinney said. "I saw pretty much every shot. The shots I didn't see ended up hitting bodies. When there were rebounds everybody cleared them."

The Wild (17-9-5) were looking for a third straight win after defeating the Chicago Blackhawks 4-3 Thursday, but sloppiness with the puck contributed to two Blue Jackets goals.

"We were on our heels," Minnesota coach Mike Yeo said. "We were slow reacting. We were slow in getting to places and spots. We were obviously not pressuring the way we need to be. The biggest thing, more than anything else, was the amount of battles we lost."

Jenner made it 3-0 with a rising shot from the left wing that went over the glove of Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom at 4:38 of the third period. It was the rookie's third goal, first since scoring twice at the Montreal Canadiens on Oct. 17.

Foligno's behind the back pass set up Umberger at 9:05 following a turnover created by Ryan Johansen, who had two assists.

"We were flat and not crisp on our play through the neutral zone," Wild forward Zach Parise said. "Overall, we were pretty brutal through the neutral zone and couldn't get anything generated."

Atkinson took a stretch pass from Brandon Dubinsky in transition and sent a snap shot from the top of the right circle at 1:17 of the second period that went over the right shoulder of Backstrom, who got the start after Josh Harding won against the Blackhawks.

Foligno scored his eighth, two more than he had in 45 games last season, on the power play at 5:40 when he went to the backhand at the crease to put in a rebound of a Johansen shot.

"We were able to maintain our energy and continue to push," Foligno said. "The biggest thing is we broke out of our zone fast.

"We're a hungry team and we're excited about where we're going. We're not there yet, but we feel really confident."

A critical juncture after the Blue Jackets got in front was killing a two-man disadvantage for 72 seconds to reach midpoint of the second period. The Wild did not have a shot during the 5-on-3 but immediately into the second leg of the power play McElhinney went side-to-side to deny Jason Pominville then made a save on Zach Parise.

"Our PK did a great job," Columbus coach Todd Richards said. "Curtis made, probably big three saves. That's where we needed saves from Curtis and he made some saves."

Columbus (12-14-3) carried a shutout into the final 20 minutes for the third straight home game and has three shutouts in its past six games.

The Blue Jackets' 41 shots were their most this season and the most allowed by the Wild.

"It's frustrating. We didn't play our game at all," Wild defenseman Keith Ballard said. "We were OK in the first and went straight down from there.

"They didn't turn pucks over. We did. We didn't win 1-on-1 battles. You could see in the second we couldn't get the puck out of our end."

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