Zidlicky, Miettinen shine in shootout for Wild

ST. PAUL, Minnesota (Ticker) — The Minnesota Wild are off to a
rousing start to their favorable home stretch.

Defenseman Marek Zidlicky scored the decisive goal in the first
round of the shootout and Antti Miettinen also tallied in the
third round as the Wild skated to a 3-2 victory over the
Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday.

In the midst of a stretch in which they are playing 10 of 12
contests at home, the Wild received a 24-save performance from
Niklas Backstrom before he denied Kristian Huselius and rookie
Derick Brassard in the bonus format to clinch the triumph.

Benoit Pouliot scored a power-play goal and defenseman Erik
Reitz also tallied for Minnesota, which posted back-to-back wins
for the first time this month. The Wild blanked the Phoenix
Coyotes, 4-0, on Thursday.

Captain Rick Nash recorded a goal and an assist and Huselius
added his sixth tally of the season for the Blue Jackets, who
fell to 1-8-2 in their last 11 road games against the Wild.

They also endured a game decided by one goal for the seventh
time in the last 12, a span in which they have gone 5-4-3.

“We’ve had only one poor hockey game in the last 12,” Columbus
coach Ken Hitchcock said. “It’s hard to fault our effort.”

After Zidlicky struck and Brassard was denied in the second
round, Miettinen beat goaltender Chris Mason with a hard wrist
shot to seal the win.

“I decided before what I was doing,” Miettinen said. “I thought
I would fake high and then go (between the pads). (Mason) stood
up a couple of times during the game when I tried to shoot

“He came in slow,” Mason said. “I’m not sure how much of the
puck I got, but I guess I didn’t read it very well.”

Minnesota has allowed only 30 goals in 15 games this season, and
Backstrom’s brilliance has been a major factor in its success.
The 30-year-old netminder is 14-3-1 in his last 18 games dating
back to last season and has yielded more than two goals just
three times in 14 contests this campaign.

READ ALSO:  Jimmy Howard makes 25 saves as Griffins down Bulldogs 1-0

After Pouliot grabbed a rebound and converted from the left
doorstep with 2:24 left in the first period, Huselius evened the
game just before intermission.

Nash rushed up the right wing and passed to Brassard, who
unleashed a shot from the right side of the crease. The puck
then bounced near the left goalpost to Huselius, who beat
Backstrom to make it 1-1.

Reitz snapped the tie with a slap shot that sailed just inside
the right post 1:48 into the third for his first NHL career

“I just closed my eyes and shot it, and it went off a guy’s
skate,” Reitz said. “I’ll take that one. It’s been a long
journey being down in the minors. This year, I finally stuck
for a little bit, and I’m trying to make the most of it.”

But Nash pulled Columbus even once again, fooling Backstrom with
a backhander 5 1/2 minutes later. The 24-year-old has scored in
three consecutive contests.

“He’s really picked up the pace the last four games,” Hitchcock
said of Nash. “He’s playing his power game again.”

“You have to work them,” Nash said. “They trap everywhere and
they shut down a lot of areas of the ice, so the only way you
can score is if you get it deep. I thought we had a good effort
and we had a lot of chances to win the game. We showed a lot of
character to come back.”

Starting for the fifth time in six games, the 20-year-old Mason
made 28 saves for Columbus but dropped to 3-1-1.

“I think we showed some character. It was a huge point,”
Huselius said. “(Mason is) still a young kid, but he’s so calm.
It’s too bad he couldn’t get the win.”