Staal, Koivu shake goal droughts in 5-4 win over Columbus
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Wild’s fourth line, with the captain Koivu, then went to work. 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. He doubled his goal total in the game to four on the season.
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.
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.