ST. PAUL, Minn. – Expectations have changed since the Minnesota Wild’s 1-6 start.
Instead of being excited following Marek Zidlicky’s winning goal in a 2-1 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday night, the Wild were relieved. They were glad to have won, but were disappointed by two lacklustre periods following a flurry chances in the first.
The Wild returned home from a five-game road trip in which they were 3-2 and improved to 8-2-1 in the past 11 games. They have played much better, but were hoping to carry the recent momentum beyond a single period.
“I don’t think too many guys are happy with the way we played,” Wild coach Todd Richards said. “We’re happy we won, but I’m leaving the rink tonight not feeling great.”
Guillaume Latendresse scored the Wild’s first goal.
Rick Nash scored the lone goal for Columbus, and Steve Mason stopped 21 shots in the loss that dropped the Blue Jackets to 2-8-4 in their last 14 games. Columbus has lost seven straight on the road (0-4-3).
The Wild passed Columbus in the standings with the victory, but are still are among the Western Conference’s worst teams.
“We need to find a way to play great hockey for 60 minutes,” Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom said following his 21-save performance. “We want to be a team that plays every night, plays their best hockey 60 minutes. We’re happy with the points, but not the whole 60 minutes.”
The Wild peppered Mason with 11 shots on several solid chances in the first period, but the teams went into the intermission scoreless. Minnesota managed just 12 shots the rest of the game.
“The first period they were all over us, but obviously Mase kept us in there,” defenceman Mike Commodore said. “We knew we had to get it going, and we did.”
Nash gave Columbus a 1-0 lead 3:41 into the second period on the Blue Jackets’ sixth shot of the game. The winger, who has scored only three of his team-leading 17 goals during Columbus’ slump, corralled a loose puck in front and easily wrapped a shot around the sprawled-out Backstrom.
It was Nash’s second goal and fifth point in four games. Jason Chimera’s assist gave him six points in seven games after a 12-game scoring drought. The goal also gave the Blue Jackets their first lead in four games, but it didn’t last long.
Latendresse made it 1-1 less than five minutes later, beating Mason between the pads off a no-look backhand pass from behind the net by Mikko Koivu. Martin Havlat was credited with the second assist, giving him a point on six straight goals for the Wild, dating to Friday’s game at Calgary.
The teams went scoreless from there until Koivu won a faceoff in the Columbus zone and sent the puck to the point to Zidlicky, who waited for an opening and fired a shot off Mason’s stick and over his shoulder for the winning goal.
“We made mistakes,” Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock said during brief postgame comments. “We needed the save, and our defenceman stepped forward instead of behind the centre.”
Zidlicky’s goal gave him 31 points in 34 games against Columbus, his most points versus any opponent.
“I just tried to shoot it,” Zidlicky said. “There was a couple seconds left, so I just made sure I didn’t hit anybody in front of me.”
Havlat, who has two goals and six assists in his last six games, now has 24 points in 22 career games against the Blue Jackets. The winger is on a season-high, three-game point streak. He had a career-best 77 points last season with Chicago.
Koivu’s two points snapped a season-high, four-game scoreless streak. Latendresse earned a point for the first time in seven games.
NOTES: Minnesota recalled LW Robbie Earl and G Anton Khudobin from Houston of the AHL, and both were in the lineup. Khudobin served as Backstrom’s backup because Josh Harding was out with the flu. … The Wild paced C Andrew Ebbett on the injured reserve because of a concussion. RW Owen Nolan missed his second straight game due to leg soreness. … Play was delayed for nearly 10 minutes at 8:20 of the second period when Minnesota C James Sheppard checked off-balance Columbus D Fedor Tyutin into the boards, sending his skate through the glass.