With the Wild playing itself awfully close to the precipice of that playoff cliff and pressure mounting as it desperately tried to end its late-season swoon, newcomer Jason Pominville beat what looked like an unbeatable goalie Saturday night to earn the Wild an important point.
The Wild couldn’t corral that second point in a shootout, though, losing 3-2 to the Columbus Blue Jackets. But the Wild now heads on a critical three-game road trip feeling a little better about itself.
“Sometimes it has to start with one [point],” said Pominville, the former Buffalo Sabres captain who scored the tying goal on a power play with 3 minutes, 15 seconds left.
Other than a costly six-minute stretch to open the second period, the Wild dominated from start to finish, severely outchanced the Blue Jackets, outshot them 41-22 and would have easily snagged both points if not for the play of Vezina Trophy contender Sergei Bobrovsky.
“Sometimes you’ve got to win games that you shouldn’t, and I think that was the case tonight,” Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson said.
Bobrovsky, who has catapulted Columbus into playoff contention with a 2.01 goals-against average and .932 save percentage, made 39 saves through 65 minutes, then two more stops in the shootout on Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu.
“Our goalie was better than their goalie … by a wide margin,” said former Wild coach Todd Richards, undoubtedly a back-handed slap at his former goalie, Niklas Backstrom.
Added Devin Setoguchi, denied four times by Bobrovsky, including once on a partial breakaway, “That’s a goalie stealing a game.”
The Wild, which hasn’t made the playoffs since 2008, is 2-6-1 in its past nine, went 0-2-1 on the homestand and sits seventh in the West — only two points ahead of Dallas, Detroit and Columbus as it leaves for Calgary, Edmonton and San Jose.
But in a game filled with adversity highlighted by Bobrovsky’s brilliance, coach Mike Yeo said the “big point” has the potential to be a building block.
Adversity began when rookie Charlie Coyle, reunited with Parise and Koivu on the first line, was ejected 17 seconds in after making contact with the head of Artem Anisimov, who never played another shift.
Anisimov was reaching for a puck, and Yeo felt it should not have even been a penalty on Coyle, saying it was a “clean hit.” GM Chuck Fletcher agreed and met during the first intermission with Supervisor of Officials Mick McGeough.
The Wild will find out Sunday what the league thinks. Coyle was warned earlier this season after his high hit on Calgary’s Matt Stajan.
After Coyle’s check, Brandon Dubinsky instigated him into his first NHL fight and the Blue Jackets wound up with a three-minute major power play.
The Wild impressively killed it off, but Coyle’s absence the rest of the way wreaked havoc with Yeo’s lines. Pominville, Setoguchi and Cal Clutterbuck all saw top-line action.
The Wild swarmed the Blue Jackets the rest of the period, outshot them 15-6 and outchanced them, by Yeo’s count, 10-0. The Wild only got one by Bobrovsky, a Pierre-Marc Bouchard deflection that actually caromed in off the Blue Jackets’ Johnson.
The Wild emerged to open the second asleep at the switch. Vaclav Prospal and Fedor Tyutin scored 2:25 apart by the 6:18 mark. The Tyutin goal was emblematic of the losing goal April 3 in San Jose — the game that really sent the Wild on a tailspin.
Kyle Brodziak, Clutterbuck, Bouchard, Jared Spurgeon and Brett Clark got hemmed in its zone for a minute. With the fans sensing disaster and beginning to growl, Tyutin scored through Backstrom’s legs.
“First six minutes of the second period, we cannot come out like that,” Yeo said. “We have to put it in our mindset an absolute 60-minute game, 65 minutes if that’s what we need.”