ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP)Mikko Koivu scored twice to snap a 30-game goalless drought, Eric Staal added his 18th goal and the Minnesota Wild held on to beat the shorthanded Columbus Blue Jackets 5-4 on Tuesday night.
Alex Stalock made 24 saves and Ryan Donato and Kevin Fiala also scored as Minnesota won for the third time in five games under interim coach Dean Evason. The Wild started the day five points behind Arizona for the final Wild Card spot in the Western Conference.
”Right now, we’re in a pretty good spot, so we know what we have to do,” Fiala said,. ”We believe. We know it’s going to be us, especially now with the deadline. We’re happy to stay with this group and just to continue with this group moving forward.”
Nick Foligno, Emil Bemstrom, Pierre-Luc Dubois and Zach Werenski scored for Columbus, which was playing without goaltender Elvis Merzlikins and forward Riley Nash, who were both injured the previous night against Ottawa.
Matiss Kivlenieks made the start in goal and stopped 35 shots in just his fifth NHL game.
The Blue Jackets, who started the day with an NHL-high 364 man games lost this season, are 1-4-5 in their last 10 games. They started the day holding the final Wild Card spot in the East.
“We do all that work at the start of the year to not be tired, so I don’t want to hear that excuse from any guy because it didn’t come down to being tired,” Foligno said. “You can say second wind and all that crap, we just didn’t have the same compete level. We’re desperate right now, so I don’t know for what reason we dip our toe in the water right now, but it’s unacceptable. It’s the real reason why we lost the game.”
Short-handed and playing the second game of a back-to-back after snapping an eight-game losing streak against Ottawa, Columbus was sluggish early.
Staal scored 1:34 into the game when his wraparound attempt deflected off defenseman Scott Harrington into the air and over Kivlenieks into the net. It snapped an 11-game drought for Staal and was just his second goal in 20 games.
“I count on myself to contribute offensively, especially in the goal department,” Staal said. “It’s obviously been a while. Hopefully, that can get me on a roll here. It’s nice to get that first one and get us on the board, get that energy going early. I thought our first period was phenomenal.”
Minnesota held a 12-1 advantage in shots and the Blue Jackets went 12 minutes without a shot before Foligno tied the game with his 10th goal of the season. Gustav Nyquist dumped the puck from the neutral zone on goal and Stalock had trouble handling the bounce, gloving it out in front where Foligno was all alone for a putback attempt.
Donato scored from his knees to give Minnesota the lead before the first intermission and Koivu scored twice in the second period.
Koivu, who decided to not waive the no-move clause in his contract before the trade deadline, had not scored since Nov. 30.
“It’s rewarding if we make the playoffs,” Koivu said. “If we don’t, I don’t think anyone is going to remember if I had two goals or not. Yeah. Let’s talk about that when it’s said and done. Like I said, with one game, if I can help the team get the win, for sure it’s a good feeling.”
Playing for the eighth time in 13 days, Columbus showed life late. The Blue Jackets scored three times in the third, twice closing within a goal. Bemstrom and Dubois made it 4-3 before Fiala scored his eighth goal in the past 11 games. Werenski scored his 19th of the season with 3:04 left.
“I think that third period, we just go, we just play, instead of waiting for the other team to make a mistake, instead of sitting back and waiting for them to turn the puck over and trying to block everything,” Dubois said.
NOTES: Columbus had five rookie forwards, two rookie defenseman and Kivlenieks in the lineup. Kivlenieks and Calvin Thurkauf were recalled a day earlier on an emergency basis with the injuries to Merzlikins and Nash. F Oliver Bjorkstand missed his third straight game with an ankle injury. He’s expected to miss eight to 10 weeks. … Minnesota was without F Luke Kunin and D Carson Soucy. Kunin is out 10-14 days and Soucy is expected out 2-4 weeks with upper-body injuries. … Wild F Gerald Mayhew, who leads the American Hockey League with 39 goals in 48 games and is second overall with 61 points, played on the first line with Staal and Fiala.
Blue Jackets: Host Minnesota on Friday night.
Wild: at Detroit on Thursday night.
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