Sergei Fedorov had two goals and two assists to lead the Blue Jackets past the Minnesota Wild 5-3 Saturday night, ending an eight-game losing skid and handing Hitchcock his first win as coach.
“I am pleasantly surprised how quickly the players bought it,” said Hitchcock, 408-249-100 in stints with the Dallas Stars and Philadelphia Flyers.
Hitchcock was hired Wednesday to replace the fired Gerard Gallant. The Blue Jackets lost 3-2 on Friday in Hitchcock’s Columbus debut against the Flyers, the team that fired him after a 1-6-1-0 start this season.
“You saw flashes of it yesterday. Today reaffirmed what I saw on the tape,” Hitchcock said. “There are some good pieces here to create a good hockey club.”
The biggest cheer of the pre-game announcements came when Hitchcock was introduced.
Anson Carter added a goal and two assists and Nikolai Zherdev had a goal and an assist to lead the Blue Jackets to match their season high in goals. They came in with the worst record (5-14-2) and lowest goal total (45) by far in the NHL. Fredrik Modin also scored for Columbus.
Zherdev’s points gave him 100 for his career in his 149th game.
Goaltender Fredrik Norrena had 19 saves to pick up his first NHL win.
Pascal Dupuis, Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Stephane Veilleux scored for the Wild.
“Nobody was going, nobody. There was not one line or one player better than the others,” Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire said. “There were mistakes that you just can’t make.”
With the score tied 2-2 early in the final period, the Blue Jackets ran off the next three goals.
Zherdev took a pass from Carter and swooped in on Minnesota goaltender Manny Fernandez, skating around the net and sliding a pass off the side of the cage to Fedorov for a hard shot he netted at the 3:24 mark.
Just under 2 1/2 minutes later, Carter flicked a pass from behind the goal line to Zherdev, who scored his sixth with a quick wrister.
Fedorov, who tied a Blue Jackets record with 10 shots on goal, picked up his second with some help from the Wild. His pass from the left wing went off defenceman Nick Schultz and then ricocheted off the stick of defenceman Kim Johnsson into the net for his fifth of the year.
“We clicked because our group speed was better and we played patient hockey,” Fedorov said. “We shot the puck at the net and tried to get to the net, but mostly we skated harder.”
The Blue Jackets scored first and led after the opening period – the first time they’ve done either of those things since their last win at home Nov. 3 against Calgary.
Just 3:24 in, Fedorov slid a pass to Carter, who partially whiffed but slipped the puck past goaltender Niklas Backstrom. Twenty-two seconds later, on the Wild’s first shot, Dupuis scored a goal for the fourth game in a row. Fedorov’s shot from between the circles was deflected by Backstrom to the corner where Modin scored from a hard angle.
Bouchard notched his fifth on the power play 1:08 into the final period to tie it 2-2 before the Blue Jackets surged.
“We are a big hockey club that can skate and can bang some players,” Hitchcock said. “If we play that way, we’ll wear teams out. When we play that way, we’ll win a lot of hockey games.”
Notes: In Norrena’s last three starts, the Blue Jackets only scored one goal – and it came with 15 seconds left in a loss. … Backstrom was replaced by Manny Fernandez at the start of the second period. … The Wild were completing a stretch of four games in six days.