Wild lay a bad egg in Columbus

By Brian Murphy

Knight Ridder Newspapers

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The Minnesota Wild stormed out of Columbus plugging their noses for the raunchy performance they turned in Wednesday night while pointing an accusatory finger at Blue Jackets bruiser Jody Shelley.

Minnesota's 2-0 loss ranks high among their most rank this season, a rotten egg laid by an anemic power play in a building that has become a house of horrors. More on their suffering in a moment.

The Wild felt aggrieved by Shelley's heavy-handed actions six minutes into the second period when he jumped Alex Henry during a scrum and sucker-punched the 6-foot-5 physical defenseman from behind.


The blow opened a gash above Henry's right eye, which required five stitches to close and kept him off the ice for the rest of the period. It also earned Shelley a 10-minute misconduct and a game misconduct, which draws an automatic review from the NHL's disciplinary czar, Colin Campbell.

"That's as bad as anything we've seen," Wild coach Jacques Lemaire said.

Henry had come to the aid of Marian Gaborik, who was tied up with Columbus' David Ling in the right face-off circle. He knew Shelley was in the area, but didn't see the punch coming.

"I respect the role he has. I've been in that role before, too," Henry said. "But when you do something like that, you lose respect."

Shelley, whose 228 penalty minutes are the fourth-most in the NHL, left Nationwide Arena without talking to reporters.

His antics might have given the Wild a rallying cry, but it could not rescue them from an 0-for-8 showing on the power play that pushed their inefficiency to 5-for-71 over the past 16 games.

Lemaire deployed 17 of his 18 skaters with the extra man, but the Wild generated few scoring opportunities and less energy.

"I tried every one of them. The last power play, I was ready to put Henry up front. He's the only one that didn't have a chance. Him and Manny," Lemaire said, referring to backup goalie Manny Fernandez.


Shelley's bullying even granted the Wild a five-minute power play. Richard Park cranked a shot off the outside of the near post, and Pierre-Marc Bouchard banged the rebound into Marc Denis' pads. But Rickard Wallin squandered the advantage by taking a hooking penalty with 2:04 left.

The final indignity came late in the third period when Filip Kuba blasted a dump-in off the back of Bouchard's leg, putting him offside and forcing him to limp to the bench.

Aaron Johnson broke the scoreless deadlock at 12:03 of the second period. David Vyborny wheeled around the net for a wraparound that pinballed into the low slot, where Johnson was loitering for the easy flip into a yawning net.

Among the ageless axioms in hockey, yielding a goal in the final minute of a period is regretful. Fumbling one into the net in the final second qualifies as downright sinful.

Dwayne Roloson has shined enough this season to be absolved for allowing Rick Nash's sharp-angle horn-beater at the end of the second period. Nevertheless, the budding superstar snuck his 39th goal between the post and Roloson's glove to plunge the Wild into a hole that required pick axes and miner's helmets to extricate them.

It was the Blue Jackets' fourth straight victory over Minnesota at Nationwide Arena. It allowed them to put three points between themselves and the bottom-feeding Pittsburgh Penguins in the race for the league's worst while the Wild lost their third straight after an inspiring seven-game unbeaten streak.

"Nothing to be proud of," Lemaire succinctly summarized.

What To Read Next
Fundraising is underway to move the giant ball of twine from the Highland, Wisconsin, home of creator James Frank Kotera, who died last month at age 75, 44 years after starting the big ball.