Wild dig out of two-goal deficit and beat Columbus to end road trip
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Facing the NHL's worst team seemed like a perfect way for the Minnesota Wild to finish up a long five-game road trip. The Columbus Blue Jackets made the Wild earn everything Tuesday night at Nationwide Arena, but the Wild prevailed in a 4-2 victory and stand alone atop the Northwest Division.
The Wild had to rally from a two-goal deficit after the first period and were out-shot 45-24 against a Blue Jacket team that has recorded just seven points on the season.
The Wild finished 3-2 and earned six points on their first of two five-game road trips of the season and go three points clear atop the standings over the Edmonton Oilers who have a game in hand over the Wild.
Saying the Wild looked sluggish in the first period would be an understatement, not carrying over any of the momentum from Sunday's 3-2 win at Anaheim as their road-weary legs must had caught up with them. It took over five minutes before the Wild managed to get a shot on goal against Blue Jackets goalie Steve Mason, who faced just six shots in the first period, none of which caused him to make a save that could end up on SportsCenter.
The Wild appeared to gain an advantage when Blue Jackets' center Samuel Pahlsson was sent to the box for hooking Wild captain Mikko Koivu but the Wild allowed a shorthanded goal to center Antoine Vermette that put Columbus up 1-0.
The Wild had killed off 38 consecutive power plays against the Blue Jackets heading into Tuesday's game which they ran up to 39, barely surviving a first period skirmish in front of goalie Niklas backstrom's net while Brad Staubitz served two minutes for boarding two minutes into the game.
The Blue Jackets kept the momentum and doubled their lead, finally ending their miserable PP-goalless streak against the Wild before it reached an even 40 when center Mark Letestu one-timed a pass from Nikita Nikitin to make it 2-0 for the home side.
The Wild followed up one of the worst periods of the season with one of the best 20-second spans of the season. After picking up where they left off in the first, the Wild snapped out of their funk and scored a power play goal by center Matt Cullen at 10:32 and followed it up exactly 20 seconds later at 10:52 when right winger Nick Johnson netted his second goal of the season to even things with the Blue Jackets.
The final period opened up with end-to-end play and the Wild finally playing with the intensity they could have used to start the game. The breakthrough for the Wild came 7:38 into the period when left winger Pierre-Marc Burchard laid a pass back for a charging Cal Clutterbuck who one-timed a rocket past Mason for the go-ahead goal, his fourth goal of the season, and the eventual game-winner.
Right winger Devin Setoguchi made it official with an empty net goal at 19:53 to seal the victory 4-2.
The Wild appeared dead and buried midway through the second period before the offense came alive with two goals in a 20-second span to rejuvenate an offense that managed just six shots in the opening period. The Wild carried that momentum into the third period where Clutterbuck would notch the game-winner Backstrom would hold strong, making 17 of his 43 saves.
• 39: Straight PP the Wild had killed against the Blue Jackets before Letestu's first period goal snapped the streak that had dated back to 2007.
• 1st: The Wild played a game as the top team in the Northwest Division for the first time since Dec. 4 2008
• 5: Game road trip the Wild wrapped up Tuesday night at Columbus. They went 3-2 on their first of two 5-game roadie with the second coming after the calendar flips to January.
• 20: Seconds between second period goals by the Wild from Cullen and Johnson.
Marek Zidlicky left the game in the first period after getting destroyed by a hit from right winger Derek Dorsett. Wild center Warren Peters came to his teammate's defense, getting into a rare fight with Dorsett that sent both men to the box. Zidlicky would not return to the bench,
Left wing Guillaume Latendresse was held out with an undisclosed injury and center Casey Wellman was a healthy scratch by head coach Mike Yeo.
Blue Jackets - Antoine Vermette 1 (Unassisted) 6:51, shorthanded
Blue Jackets - Mark Letestu 2 (Nikita Nikitin, Grant Clitsome) 10:42, PPG
Wild - Matt Cullen 8 (Kyle Brodziak, Jared Spurgeon) 10:32 PPG
Wild - Nick Johnson 2 (Darroll Powe, Warren Peters) 10:52
Wild - Cal Clutterbuck 4 (Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Justin Falk) 7:38
Wild - Devin Setoguchi 5 (Unassisted) 19:53, empty net
Shots: Wild 6-12-6-24; Blue Jackets 18-10-17-45. Saves: Wild, Niklas Backstrom (43-45); Blue Jackets, Steve Mason (20-23). Power plays: Wild 1-for-5, Blue Jackets 1-3.
1. Niklas Backstrom, 2. Cal Clutterbuck, 3. Antoine Vermette
After wrapping up their first of two five-game road trips this season, the Wild return to St. Paul Thursday for a six-game homestand -- their longest since 2007. The extended stay at the Xcel Energy Center begins with the first meeting between the Wild and division rival Colorado Avalanche.