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Columbus' Bobrovsky stars once again in 3-2 shootout win over Wild

The SportsXchange

ST. PAUL, Minn. - The Columbus Blue Jackets settled on Sergei Bobrovsky midway through the season to be their every-game starter in goal.

He's not only rewarded their trust, he's carried them to a potential playoff berth.

Mark Letestu and Cam Atkinson scored in the shootout to give Columbus a 3-2 win against the Minnesota Wild. But it was Bobrovsky, who started for the 19th time in 21 games, who made several highlight reel saves and gave the Blue Jackets a chance at two pivotal points.

Bobrovsky, who's played in 20 of the past 21 games, made 39 saves in goal and stopped shootout attempts by Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu.

Vinny Prospal and Fedor Tyutin each scored in regulation for the Blue Jackets, who have won six of their past eight games to pull into a tie with idle Detroit and Dallas - which beat San Jose Saturday - with 45 points, tied for eighth in the Western Conference.

"You look at the numbers and what he's been able to do, even past his numbers, the confidence that he's given our team in going out and winning games," Columbus coach Todd Richards said. "After tonight's performance, you're going into Colorado (on Monday) expecting to win because you have No. 72 in the pipes. It's those types of things that are immeasurable to your team.

"Numbers-wise, he's great. All you have to do is take a look at the stats and where he's at. But I think it's just the importance. And when you talk about MVPs even, not that I'm putting him up there, but I'm talking MVP of our team and again how he's affected everyone else playing in front of him."

Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Jason Pominville scored for Minnesota, which has lost seven of nine and is perilously holding onto seventh in the West with 46 points. Niklas Backstrom made 20 saves for the Wild.

"That's a big point for us," Minnesota defenseman Ryan Suter said. "We're not quitting. We're going to keep going to the end. Would have been nice to get two, but we'll start with one."

The Wild almost missed earning one point after a second-period letdown. Minnesota controlled play much of the game and outshot the Blue Jackets 41-22.

But it was Columbus benefitting from its few chances, scoring two goals 2 minutes, 25 seconds apart in the second period. Prospal scored his 11th of the season and Tyutin added his third.

Coming off a big win the night before against St. Louis, the Blue Jackets hung around long enough to win, with the help of Bobrovsky, who the team gave the everyday spot in goal in March and then traded backup Steve Mason at the trade deadline.

"You have to have good goaltending to win in this league and he's given us that every night and given us a chance to win tonight," defenseman Jack Johnson said.

The Wild tied the game with 3:15 left in the third period when Pominville, who was acquired at the trade deadline from Buffalo, tipped home a rebound of a point shot by Ryan Suter.

Goals have been really hard to come by recently for the Wild, who had been shut out in three of their past four games. Even when the Wild scored first Saturday, they benefitted from a bit of luck.

The Wild peppered Bobrovsky in the first period with 15 shots and the only tally against him deflected off Jackson, ending a goal-less string of 137:24 minutes for the Wild. Minnesota had allowed the first goal in seven of its past eight games.

The game started intense after Minnesota rookie Charlie Coyle hit Columbus' Artem Anisimov on the first shift of the game, putting his shoulder into Anisimov's head and shoulder and touched off a physical game just 17 seconds in.

Blue Jackets center Brandon Dubinsky took issue with the hit and fought with Coyle. Coyle was assessed a five-minute major for fighting and was given a match penalty for a hit to the head. Anisimov missed the rest of the game with what the team called an upper-body injury.

"It's a clean hit, and then they come in and they instigate, and next thing you know we lose a player for the game and they get a three-minute power play," Wild coach Mike Yeo said.

NOTES: The fight was the first of Coyle's NHL career. In 29 previous games, the rookie has had only 11 penalty minutes. Coyle's family, from Weymouth, Mass., was on hand to see Coyle play just 17 seconds. ... Columbus forward Marian Gaborik was booed lustily by the Minnesota crowd, playing back at the Xcel Energy Center for just the third time since he left the Wild to sign a lucrative free-agent contract with the New York Rangers. Gaborik, Minnesota's first-ever draft pick at No. 3 in 2000, is still the team's career scoring leader with 437 points, including a team-best 219 goals. Gaborik has three goals and three assists in five games for the Blue Jackets since being acquired at the trade deadline. ... Tyutin was playing in his 600th career game. ... Columbus leads the Western Conference in fighting majors this season (32). ... Wild center Matt Cullen still wasn't able to return from a lower-body injury, but he did practice with the team for the first time since April 1. Coach Mike Yeo has called Cullen day to day.
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