Rostislav Klesla had a goal and an assist as the Blue Jackets, who now have two injured goalies, held on for a 3-2 win over the Minnesota Wild on Saturday night for their third straight victory.
Dan Fritsche and Anson Carter also scored, and David Vyborny added two assists for the Blue Jackets, who have won four of five. They entered the game 13 points behind Minnesota for the last Western Conference playoff spot.
“It was a great team win. A great effort by everybody, especially Ty (Conklin),” Klesla said. “He came into the net and made some big saves for us in a tough situation.”
Columbus goalie Fredrick Norrena left the game late in the second period with a lower body injury and did not return. Third-stringer Conklin finished the game for the Blue Jackets, who have been playing since Dec. 26 without injured starter Pascal Leclaire.
Brian Rolston and Pascal Dupuis scored for the Wild, who snapped their franchise-best four-game road winning streak. The Wild haven’t won in Columbus since 2002, a span of eight games.
Columbus capitalized on a lengthy two-man advantage early in the first period with Kim Johnsson in the penalty box serving a double minor and Petteri Nummelin joining him for hooking.
“It was a special teams game,” Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock said. “We got the lead and then hung on. Both teams knew the significance of the two points.”
After setting up the play in the zone, Klesla took a short pass from Vyborny and ripped a slot shop from the point past Manny Fernandez at 8:29 to open the scoring.
Columbus continued to pressure and Fritsche scored his 11th, redirecting Vyborny’s shot just 54 seconds later to make it 2-0.
“We came out with a strong effort tonight,” Fritsche said. “Freddie Norrena came up big again for us. Ty Conklin came in and did the same thing.”
Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire had a hard time understanding why his team started so poorly.
“Probably with all the penalties, that changed the game,” he said. “After that, we couldn’t get back to our game.”
Minnesota had their own two-man chance in the period, which started just nine seconds in but they didn’t threaten.
The Blue Jackets increased their led to 3-0 midway through the second period, moments after another power-play chance expired.
Nick Shultz blocked Klesla’s point shot, but Jason Chimera stick checked Shultz in the slot and the puck squirted free to Carter. He snapped a quick one-time shot for his eighth.
“It felt nice,” Carter said of his first goal in a month. “I’ve clanged a few off the post the last few games. It’s been a little bit of a struggle coming back from the bum shoulder.”
Columbus gave Minnesota another crack at a five-on-three late in the period.
Zenon Konopka took a high sticking penalty at 15:56 and Adam Foote followed with a delay of game penalty three seconds later.
Rolston scored his 25th just three seconds into the advantage, firing a slap shot from the high-left circle at 16:10 past Norrena, who was hurt on the play.
Norrena finished with 20 saves, and Conklin had 15 – including 11 in a hectic third period.
“It’s one of those things where someone gets hurt and you’re in there before you even have time to get nervous,” Conklin said.
Dupuis got around Rick Nash and tipped in a cross ice pass from Mikko Koivu on a rush to pull the Wild to 3-2 at 11:29. Wes Walz hit the post with four minutes left and Minnesota buzzed around the Columbus net the final minutes of the game.
Notes: Columbus is 15-1-4 when scoring first. … Rolston has five goals and three assists in four games this season against the Blue Jackets. … Konopka, acquired in a trade Friday with Anaheim, made his first appearance. … Columbus finished 2-for-7 on the power play while the Wild went 1-for-9.