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McElhinney, Jackets shut out Wild

The SportsXchange

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Goaltender Curtis McElhinney won't make Blue Jackets' fans forget about starter Sergei Bobrovsky. But, for one night anyway, he calmed a lot of nerves in Columbus.

McElhinney made 20 saves for his first shutout in nearly three years, leading the Jackets to a 4-0 rout of the Minnesota Wild before 11,319 at Nationwide Arena.

Right winger Cam Atkinson, left winger Nick Foligno, center Boone Jenner and left winger R.J. Umberger each scored goals, while center Ryan Johansen had two assists for the Blue Jackets, who have won back-to-back games -- by shutouts, no less -- for the first time since Oct. 25.

"It's one of our most complete wins of the season, sure," Foligno said. "We have complete faith and trust in McElhinney. He's worked so hard, and he's played so well for us that we're really excited he's getting this chance.

"But we wanted to play well in front of him, too, let him get comfortable. And I thought we did that. We didn't give them much."

McElhinney made only his fifth start of the season, but he's going to be busy for the next month or so after Bobrovsky suffered a strained left groin in Tuesday's 1-0 win over Tampa Bay.

The Blue Jackets announced Wednesday that Bobrovsky, who won the Vezina Trophy last season as the NHL's top goaltender, will likely miss about a month.

McElhinney was up to the task in his first test, and the Blue Jackets played very well in front of him, blocking shots and quickly clearing the puck out of their own end, while establishing a fast and fierce forecheck in the Wild zone.

It was his first shutout since Feb. 5, 2011, when he played for Anaheim vs. Colorado.

"The guys were great in front of me," McElhinney said. "I saw just about every puck, and the ones I didn't see they blocked.

"I thought we were a dangerous club with the puck, and we were really smart without it, too."

The Blue Jackets outshot the Wild 41-20, including 32-13 in the final two periods.

"We were on our heels," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "Slow reacting, slow getting to spots. Not pressuring. The amount of battles we lost tonight was just ...

"It's how we were prepared, or our lack of preparation, I should say. If you don't win one-on-one battles and allow them to play in your zone, you're going to keep getting hit, and it's going to keep getting harder."

Goaltender Niklas Backstrom made 37 saves for the Wild, who were shutout for only the second time this season.

Atkinson put the Jackets up 1-0 only 1:17 into the first period when he took a feed from center Brandon Dubinsky and scored on a high wrist shot from just inside the top of the right circle.

The lead grew to 2-0 at 5:54 of the second when Foligno scored a power-play goal off a rebound in front of Backstrom.

The Blue Jackets, who are 35-0 under coach Todd Richards when leading after two periods, put an exclamation point on it in the third.

At 4:38 of the third, Jenner ended a tic-tac-toe rush with a high wrister from just inside the left faceoff circle to make it 3-0.

It was 4-0 at 9:05 of the third when Foligno set up Umberger with a behind-the-back pass that he turned into an easy goal past Backstrom.

NOTES: Blue Jackets C Derek MacKenzie returned to the lineup after missing five games with back spasms. ... The Wild won 4-3 on Thursday night in Chicago before flying to Columbus. The Blue Jackets hadn't played since Tuesday. ... Blue Jackets G Curtis McElhinney never made more than six consecutive starts for an NHL team. He took over in net for Anaheim late in the 2010-11 season when G Jonas Hiller was idled by back spasms. The journeyman played 78 NHL games for five clubs since 2006-07. ... A storm began dumping snow on central Ohio around 2 p.m. ET and snarled traffic around the city, keeping many from the rink. Despite the announced attendance, Nationwide was about one-third full.
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