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Bouchard's tiebreaking goal propels Wild over Blue Jackets

The SportsXchange

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Minnesota Wild's top line has been as dominant as any in the NHL early in this shortened season, but the team has lacked secondary offense. That is, until Pierre-Marc Bouchard somehow ended up on the fourth line.

Playing on a juggled offensive unit, Bouchard scored his 100th career goal late in the third period Tuesday, and it lifted the Wild to a 3-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets.

After a short pass from Torrey Mitchell at the blue line, Bouchard sailed into the Columbus zone at full speed and whipped a wrist shot past Blue Jackets goalie Steve Mason, snapping a 2-2 tie and ending Minnesota's three-game losing streak.

"Those guys were doing a great job for us," Wild coach Mike Yeo said of his unlikely trio of Bouchard, Mitchell and Zenon Konopka. "That's one thing that was great about this game. We've talked a lot about other guys contributing besides the top line, but it's more than just scoring goals. It's going out and playing minutes and playing the right way."

The Blue Jackets (2-4-1) rallied from a two-goal deficit to tie the game in the third, but they have now lost five of their past six games.

"We played 30 minutes of hockey. We played the first 10 minutes, and then we played the last 20," Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said. "You tie it up and you want the point or the two points, but when you sit back and think about the game and the way it went and how you played, in the end we got what we deserved because we weren't good enough for 60 minutes."

Bouchard nearly had his second goal of the night with four minutes to play, but he was denied by Mason on a penalty shot.

Mikko Koivu and Tom Gilbert scored first-period goals for Minnesota (3-2-1).

Columbus was clearly the offensive aggressor early in the game, but it emerged from the opening period with nothing to show for the effort save for a 2-0 deficit.

Minnesota's top line continued to supply pretty much all of the Wild offense, as Koivu scored his second goal of the season, then set up defenseman Gilbert's second goal of the season.

"(The top) line has been playing some solid hockey since the beginning of the season. We need to support them," said Bouchard, who played fewer than 100 games over the previous three seasons due to lingering concussion problems. "The other lines need to play some better hockey and be a little bit more productive. We want to play our game. If we're playing good with the puck and creating stuff, we know goals will come later."

In the middle period, the Blue Jackets needed more than 10 minutes just to record a shot on goal, then needed two more shots to get one past Niklas Backstrom. Columbus controlled the puck for a long stretch on one shift, keeping the tired Wild players from changing, and got on the scoreboard when Mark Letestu corralled a bouncing puck in the crease and slipped it behind the goalie.

For Letestu, who was a healthy scratch for the Blue Jackets' first two games of the season, it was his second goal in the past three games.

Minnesota appeared to have re-established a two-goal lead less than a minute later. Columbus defenseman Nikita Nikitin's turnover on the goal line went right to Zach Parise, whose initial shot was saved by Mason, but the rebound was poked into the net. While the Wild celebrated what would've been Parise's 200th career goal, replay officials determined Parise had directed the puck into the net with his arm, and they ruled no goal.

Instead, it was the Blue Jackets tying the game 2-2 on the third-period power play, when defenseman Jack Johnson got his first goal of the season. Johnson ripped a shot from the blue line through traffic that found the back of the net.

"Parise comes back and gets that disallowed goal, and that could've really deflated the group, for them to come back and get one," Columbus center Ryan Johansen said. "Dodging that bullet really woke guys up, knowing that we could've been down 3-1, and get a second life. Down 2-1 on the road is not a bad situation. Eventually we got the tie, but we couldn't hold onto it."

Mason had 23 saves for Columbus, which faces the St. Louis Blues at home on Thursday. For the Wild, who face the unbeaten Chicago Blackhawks at home on Wednesday night, Backstrom finished with 17 saves.

NOTES: Rookie defenseman Jonas Brodin is the first player ever to skate for the Wild who was born after the Minnesota North Stars moved to Dallas. Brodin was born July 12, 1993, three months after the North Stars played their final game in the state. ... The Blue Jackets didn't arrive in St. Paul until noon on Tuesday, after their planned Monday night flight out of Ohio was scrapped due to heavy fog in Minnesota. The players slept in their own beds after Monday night's 2-1 win over the Stars and did not skate in Minnesota prior to Tuesday's pregame warm-ups. ... Tuesday's game was the 500th that the Wild have played at Xcel Energy Center since the building opened with their 2000 expansion debut. That includes 33 preseason games and 13 playoff games. ... After being a healthy scratch for the Blue Jackets first five contests, center Colton Gillies was back in the lineup for the second consecutive game. Gillies played parts of three NHL seasons with the Wild, but was waived by the team on Jan. 13, 2012. He was claimed by Columbus the next day. Gillies and ex-teammate Darroll Powe each spent five minutes in the penalty box after a first-period fight.
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