The Minnesota Wild shut out the Columbus Blue Jackets Sunday evening at Nationwide Arena 3-0. The Wild won on the strength of two power play goals and a 24 save shutout performance by Minnesota goal tender Niklas Backstrom. With the win the Wild leapfrog the St. Louis Blues into 6th in the Western Conference and move to within 2 points of the Vancouver Canucks for the Northwest Division lead. The Minnesota squad skated into Columbus and did what they had to do to take 2 points. Give the Wild power plays, OK we’ll score two. Make a mistake with the puck, OK the defense will clear the zone and jump start the offense. Draw a penalty, OK our penalty kill will be perfect on the night. Minnesota went into hostile territory and went to work. Columbus got desperate in the 3rd period throwing everything at the net, but none of it bothered Backstrom as he recorded his NHL leading 20th win and 2nd shutout of the season. The new guy, Jason Pominville, with his family in attendance, scored a goal and added an assist for his first multi-point game as a member of the Wild. This was the kind of team wide effort fans of the Minnesota Wild have been looking for. Tonight was a good ending to what had been a miserable road trip for the Wild. A day of rest and practice goes a long darn way toward a favorable outcome. After tonight’s Columbus butt kicking, Minnesota Head Coach Mike Yeo said, “I thought that everybody was on top of their game.” “Special teams tonight were fantastic. Power Play in the 2nd period getting us going and PK keeping the 2 goal cushion is huge.”
The first period was pretty evenly matched with the two teams trading shots and offensive opportunities. After 20 minutes the shot were 9 for Minnesota and 8 for Columbus. The Blue Jackets had the only power play of the period and it was effectively neutralized by the Wild’s penalty killers. The 2nd period is where the Wild’s offense came alive and they potted a pair of goals on the power play. The first came at the 3:17 mark as Ryan Suter scored his fourth of the year off a pass from Jared Spurgeon. Suter beat Blue Jackets goalie Bobrovsky cleanly through a three player screen to put the good guys up 1-0. This is the first time the Wild have scored first in their last 7 games. By the way, the Wild are now 14-4-0 when they score first. Now that’s a nice stat to have and keep working on. Minnesota would strike again on the power play 15 minutes into the period as Mikael Granlund threw a beautiful cross ice pass from above the right circle to Charlie Coyle sitting on Bobrovsk’s doorstep. It just took a simple tap in by Coyle to record his 6th goal of the season and first power play marker of his career giving the Wild a 2-0 lead they would carry into the final stanza. The final goal by the Wild was another hard working type of play that began with Zach Parise stealing the puck in the Columbus zone. Pominville meanwhile slid down low taking a perfect Parise pass across the front of the goal and beat Boborovsky for his first of many as a member of the Minnesota Wild. Score Wild 3, Blue Jackets 0, end of story, thank you for the two points, see you in our house next Saturday.
Columbus had trouble getting any sustained pressure during their power play chances. They went 0 for 4 with the man advantage as the Wild defenders shut them down. It wasn’t just on the power play that the defense shone. Coach Yeo said, “I thought our entire defensive group was really strong tonight, one of our better games execution wise.” The defensive shake up by Yeo sure yielded results quickly. Tom Gilbert and Brett Clark were scratched in favor of Nate Prosser and Justin Falk. The two young defensemen took the opportunity and ran with it, playing a strong game throughout. Ryan Suter was the #1 star of the game with 1 goal on 5 shots, a +1 rating and 31:07 of ice time. That’s a warrior in action. His partner Jonas Brodin was a +1 in 25:36 of ice time. That kind of play is what the Wild need if they are to move up in the Western Conference standings and secure home ice for the first round of the playoffs.
The offense tonight was moving their feet, spending more time in the offensive zone than back pedaling trying to recover. The top line of Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise and Jason Pominville were better as the game went on and will be an amazing offensive force as they continue to gel. The Line of Cal Clutterbuck, Kyle Brodziak and Clyle was praised by Coach Yeo who said, “They must have been a frustrating line to play against”. A total of 8 Minnesota players registered at least a point tonight. The team now returns to the Xcel Energy Center for 3 home games this week facing, Chicago, St. Louis, and these same Columbus Blue Jackets. The boys better get some rest and another practice in before the Blackhawks come to town Tuesday night. This was a satisfying win and a good ending to the road trip. As Coach Yeo said, “It’s time to push this one aside and get ready for our next one.” There’s just 10 games left in the season and every point is precious as the final push continues to secure a place in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. GonePuckWild.com will be with you every step of the way with the news, information and opinions you want on your Minnesota Wild. Until next time this is Scott Drain triumphantly shouting, “LET’S GO WILD!!!!”