Wild take a shootout victory over Blue Jackets
By Michael Russo
McClatchy News Services
ST. PAUL, Minn. — If you like hand passes, icings and offside calls, Saturday night’s Wild-Columbus Blue Jackets game was for you.
There were so many stoppages in this disjointed game, it’s amazing the linesmen didn’t dislocate their shoulders signaling them. But in a game heavy on whistles and light on flow, the Wild found a way to eke out an ugly 3-2 shootout victory.
"We didn’t make any plays. We weren’t sharp. We were exactly like our pregame skate," coach Jacques Lemaire said. "The legs were there. No brain."
And that was saying it kindly.
"Oh my, that was painful," center Eric Belanger said. "I mean, they play the way we play. We had a taste of our own medicine. They don’t give you much, like us. It was tough not to get frustrated. It must have been boring for the fans.
"But we still found a way to win. Two points. That’s what matters."
Niklas Backstrom made 24 saves and stopped both of Columbus’ talented shootout shooters — Kristian Huselius and Derick Brassard — to improve to 11-0-3 in his past 14 home starts.
Antti Miettinen scored the deciding goal in the shootout, and defenseman Marek Zidlicky may wind up being shootout specialist Petteri Nummelin’s replacement.
He scored a sweet shootout goal, just like Wild owner Craig Leipold projected in July after the Wild acquired Zidlicky from Nashville. Asked for a Zidlicky scouting report last summer because he used to own the Predators, Leipold said, "The shootout, he’s unbelievable, which is good, because we need shootout guys."
With the score tied at 1-1 after first-period goals by Benoit Pouliot and Huselius, Wild defenseman Erik Reitz scored his first NHL goal less than two minutes into the third period.
"Great pass by (Andrew Brunette) off the boards," Reitz said. "I just closed my eyes and shot it and it went off a guy’s skate and in. I’ll take that one."