ST. PAUL, Minn. – With key sources of offence either hurting or playing elsewhere, the Minnesota Wild won with defence in their pre-season opener, beating the Columbus Blue Jackets 2-1.
Niklas Backstrom made 22 saves, Kim Johnsson and Benoit Pouliot scored goals and Owen Nolan had an assist in his Minnesota debut on Wednesday night.
Johnsson scored in the opening period, and Pouliot doubled the Minnesota lead in the third. Nolan assisted on Pouliot’s goal.
“We’re just trying to get to know each other out there,” said Johnsson, who had four goals last season. “There are a lot of new guys that have to learn the new system, so it’s going to take a while.”
The Wild expect to be a more defensive-oriented club this season, with Pavol Demitra and Brian Rolston gone. They were also without Marian Gaborik on Wednesday, as he watched from the press box with a leg injury.
Jiri Novotny scored on a power play for Columbus in the third period, and Fredrik Norrena had 28 saves. The Blue Jackets are 0-2 in the pre-season after opening with a 4-3 loss in Chicago on Tuesday.
“I thought we had bus legs, our travel legs,” said Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock. “They really competed, and then in the second and third we really came on.”
Columbus missed an opportunity to tie it early in a penalty-filled second period. Minnesota’s Danny Irmen received a major penalty for boarding, but the Blue Jackets failed to get a shot on goal during the five-minute power play.
“The only thing we didn’t touch on in training camp was the penalty kill,” said Wild coach Jacques Lemaire. “Guess what we’ll be working on (Thursday).”