ST. PAUL, Minn. - After the Minnesota Wild finished staggering through a four-minute power play with the game tied late in the second period, boos came from the crowd.
That was a sweet sound for Columbus Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards. He used to work here, sure, but the effort by his penalty kill was the real pleaser.
James Wisniewski had the go-ahead goal and two assists plus a critical defensive play in the crease late in game to help the Blue Jackets beat the Wild 3-1 on Monday.
Brandon Dubinsky scored early for the Blue Jackets, and Scott Hartnell tipped in Wisniewski's shot with 3:03 left to seal the victory for goalie Sergei Bobrovsky. The All-Star made 25 saves to improve to 5-1 in his career against the Wild and win for the first time in five starts.
"That's the way our team's going to win hockey games," Dubinsky said. "We've got to keep them tight."
Zach Parise scored his team-leading 17th goal for the Wild, who fell to 4-9-4 over their last 17 games. They thought they took the lead late in the second period when Ryan Suter knocked in a loose puck, but David Savard was whistled for a high stick to the chin of Jason Zucker. The replay review determined Savard touched the puck to initiate the stoppage of time. Then came the four-minute man advantage for the Wild.
"That was a big moment. You could hear the boos coming down from up top, and whenever you hear that on the road that's a good thing," said Richards, who improved to 7-2 against the Wild since being hired by the Blue Jackets three years ago. "It means you're doing the right things."
Suter returned to the first pairing on defence for the Wild after serving a two-game suspension by the NHL for an elbow to the head, but he was on the ice for all three scores by the Blue Jackets while playing 30-plus minutes for the 14th time this season. Coach Mike Yeo said he thought Suter played well.
After Erik Haula was called for tripping, his second penalty of the game, Nick Foligno sneaked behind the net on the power play to find Wisniewski for a one-timer as Suter was late to arrive from across the slot at the 5:35 mark of the third period.
The Wild nearly tied it after Parise's shot skipped off Bobrovsky, when the puck landed in the crease and sat there untouched for a second. Jason Pominville swooped in for the rebound, but Wisniewski dived across the goal mouth to thwart the threat.
Then came the gritty goal for the Blue Jackets, when Hartnell manoeuvred the puck past Devan Dubnyk after the shot by Wisniewski.
"We've been having more of a game plan of making it a battle in front of their net. Forwards going there and just throwing pucks there," Wisniewski said. "It wasn't a lot of slap shots tonight. It was throwing wristers and trying to get tips."
Dubnyk started in the net for Minnesota for the third straight game since his arrival via trade from Arizona. He dropped his first decision with his new team, stopping 20 shots, after the Wild won his first two starts by a total of 10-1 behind his 43 saves.
"I don't think our puck support against a team that pressures like that was good enough tonight. But we had some opportunities. We just had to find some ways to cash in on them," Yeo said.
This was Parise's third straight game with a goal, and he had a prime opportunity for another one in the second period when Savard pulled him down on a breakaway to draw the penalty shot. But after a couple of dekes in the slot, Parise lost control of the puck as it neared Bobrovsky's stick and didn't get a shot on the net.
"Every goal we do score is a battle for us. We just have to bear down," Suter said.
The puck has not been bouncing the Wild's way lately.
"How long can we use that excuse?" Parise said. "We had some good chances. It's just a matter of capitalizing on them."
NOTES: The Blue Jackets made RW Jared Boll a healthy scratch for the first time this season. RW Jack Skille came off injured reserve to take his spot on the fourth line. ... Wild goalie Darcy Kuemper was taken off injured reserve after missing six games because of a lower-body injury. He could play on Tuesday at Detroit. So could centre Mikael Granlund, who has missed the last 12 games with a broken left wrist.