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Focus turns to Koivu as Wild spurns Blue Jackets

Wild captain snaps 30-game goal-scoring, scores twice as Minnesota survives late Columbus rally

by Dan Myers @mnwildscribe /

ST. PAUL -- After tallying his first two-goal game in more than three years, Wild forward Mikko Koivu was reluctantly forced to talk about himself.

The uber-serious captain, surly at times to begin with, can't stand having the spotlight on him, but on this night, a 5-4 victory for his team over the Columbus Blue Jackets, Koivu was an easy first target for assembled media. 

When he scored his second goal of the game with 9.3 seconds left in the second period, his 18th career two-goal night, the focus turned to Koivu's push for his first-ever NHL hat trick.

With the Wild up one late and the Columbus net empty, Koivu was on the ice with a chance to make some personal history. 

The hat trick was on his mind, but he had two points for his team in his sights as well.

Video: Helmet and celly vs Columbus

"Of course. I'm sure every player would like to get a hat trick every game if they get a chance," Koivu said. "But after the rollercoaster there in third, [it was a] good feeling to get those two points."

Minnesota led by three at the second intermission, paced by Koivu's two-goal second period that doubled his season goal output in the span of just 7 minutes, 42 seconds. 

But it was more than just his goals on Tuesday night. Koivu's line was the Wild's best all night long, scoring three of Minnesota's five goals and sustaining pressure in the offensive zone for large chunks of the night. 

Video: Dean Evason postgame vs Columbus

"Whenever you can get that balance, and obviously with some scoring ... [Ryan Hartman] was really good on the wall, [Ryan Donato] had some good speed," said Wild interim coach Dean Evason. "They played a strong game for us and allowed us just to roll the lines."

More succinctly: "I thought, for the most part of the 60 minutes, we played a strong game and obviously the goals were extra," Koivu said. 

It was the kind of statement Koivu wanted to make after announcing over the weekend that he would not waive his no-movement clause to allow a trade that, for the first time, would have put him in another team's uniform. 

Koivu, the first and only full-time captain in Wild history, said there is unfinished business he feels like he needs to attend here before, potentially, riding off into the sunset. 

If scoring goals is what it takes to get the Wild back to the postseason, that's what he'll aim to do.

Video: Locker room postgame vs Columbus

"It's rewarding if we make the playoffs. If we don't, I don't think anyone will remember if I had two goals or not," Koivu said. "With one game, if you can help the team to get the win, for sure, it's a good feeling. That's about it, then I'd move on to the next one and like we talked before, that's kinda the situation we are in and we gotta get ourselves out of it and make sure that we keep playing better and better and get some more points."

Koivu looked like a guy with plenty left in the tank on Tuesday.

His tally midway through the game snapped a 30-game goal drought and was his first goal since early November. Less than eight minutes later, he gave the Wild a 4-1 lead at intermission.

Video: CBJ@MIN: Koivu pots backhander for second goal

But Minnesota needed to weather a furious Jackets rally, one where they pulled within one goal twice in the final period and nearly tied the game at 4 if not for a big save on Zach Werenski by Alex Stalock.

Moments after that, Eric Staal fed Kevin Fiala for a goal and a 5-3 lead, on what ended up being the game-winning goal. 

Werenski would get Columbus to within 5-4 with 3:05 to play, but could not pull any closer.

Between Staal and Fiala chipping in with two goals and Minnesota's fourth line scoring three times, it was the kind of balance the Wild will need if Koivu is to make good on his unfinished business.

"That's what we have to do, that's the way we are built," Koivu said. "Every line, individual and as a line, you need to be able to help. Some nights, if you don't have it, you gotta make sure you're doing the things that still help the team. That's what we have to do, from the goalies, to defense and to us forwards. It's a team effort, it has to be that."


Postgame Hat Trick: Wild 5, Blue Jackets 4

Video: Koivu, Staal propel Wild past Blue Jackets

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