COLUMBUS, Ohio – After a long five-game road trip, the Minnesota Wild are looking forward to returning home.
Cal Clutterbuck scored in the third period and the Wild rallied with four unanswered goals for a 4-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday night.
“I was real impressed with the character of the guys,” Minnesota coach Mike Yeo said.
“It would have been really easy when you’re that tired, you don’t have everything in the tank you had at the start of the trip, to just say, ‘OK, it wasn’t our night. It wasn’t a terrible trip. We got a couple of wins here, let’s just move on to our home stand,’ but the guys didn’t do that.”
Matt Cullen scored on the power play for his team-leading eighth goal, and Nick Johnson and Devin Setoguchi also scored for Minnesota, which closed out the swing with three wins in five games.
Niklas Backstrom stopped a season-high 43 shots for the Wild, off to one of the best starts in franchise history at 10-5-3.
“It feels good to win on the road but on the other hand we have to find a way to get better every night,” Backstrom said. “That’s what we’re focusing on.”
Antoine Vermette broke out of a scoring slump with a short-handed goal and Mark Letestu scored on the power play in the first period for Columbus, which has the fewest points in the NHL.
Steve Mason made 20 saves for the Blue Jackets, who squandered a two-goal lead.
The game was the first with both James Wisniewski and Clutterbuck in the lineup since Wisniewski elbowed Clutterbuck in a pre-season game resulting in an eight-game suspension to start the season for Wisniewski.
Tied at two entering the third period, Clutterbuck stepped into Pierre-Marc Bouchard’s drop pass at the right circle and sent a blistering slapshot past Mason at 7:38.
“I didn’t really see it go in, to be honest,” Clutterbuck said of his fourth. “I heard it. I saw the light.”
Rick Nash missed a chance to pull Columbus even midway through the period, but his close range shot hit off the post.
“He’s squeezing his stick pretty tight now,” Blue Jackets coach Scott Arniel said.
Setoguchi stole the puck from Wisniewski before scoring into an empty net for his fifth goal.
Columbus jumped on the Wild early, outshooting them 18-6 and setting an early physical tone with several hits and aggressive play around the Minnesota crease.
Vermette ended a 21-game scoreless skid when he stole the puck from Kyle Brodziak inside the Wild blue-line and put his own rebound past Backstrom at 6:51.
Letestu made it 2-0 at 10:42 of the period on the power play, getting his second goal in three games since being traded from Pittsburgh.
“It’s been a long trip for us,” Yeo said. “The travel we’ve had along the way, changing time zones, not skating yesterday. There were a lot of things to indicate we might have the start we did.”
The momentum and lead for Columbus vanished in just 20 seconds in the second period.
Cullen scooped up a loose puck in the slot and flicked home a backhand at 10:32.
The Wild crashed the net again, this time Johnson fought through traffic to score from in tight for his second of the season at 10:52.
“For 30 minutes (we) absolutely dominated them, probably our best 30 minutes of the year and then we just seemed to go into a shell,” Arniel said. “We just seemed to proceed to turn pucks over.”
Notes: Columbus entered having been outscored 22-10 in the first period. … Minnesota D Marek Zidlicky took a hard hit from Derek Dorsett midway through the first period and didn’t return. …The man-advantage goal was the first for Columbus against Minnesota since Nov. 23, 2007, snapping a 0-for-42 slide.