Cassels scored twice, including the quickest goal in team history, and added an assist and Marc Denis recorded his fourth shutout as the Blue Jackets halted a four-game slide with a 5-0 blanking of the Wild.
Cassels’ wrist shot from the right faceoff circle went between the pads of goaltender Manny Fernandez just 16 seconds into the contest. He scored one second faster than Espen Knutsen, who set the previous team mark on February 25, 2001 at Anaheim.
“It’s great to get off to a start like that,” Cassels said. “It gets everybody excited and involved in the game. It’s just the way we wanted to start.”
It ignited a five-goal outburst in the opening 20 minutes, establishing another Blue Jackets’ record for goals in a period. It also helped the Western Conference’s worst team run its winning streak against Minnesota to three games.
Columbus is just 3-10-1-1 in its last 15 games overall.
Denis made 13 of his 24 saves in the first period en route to his eighth career shutout. He is 2-0-1 lifetime with a 1.30 goals-against average vs. the Wild.
“We were a determined bunch,” Denis said. “Our offense, which unfortunately hasn’t been clicking that much, tonight was just very, very solid. And the greatest part of it all is, 5-on-5, I don’t believe they got a scoring chance in the last two periods.”
Fernandez yielded five goals on just 12 shots before being replaced by Dwayne Roloson to start the second period.
“We are still wondering what happened,” Wild coach Jacques Lemaire said. “It’s normal for the players to think they are better. We are ahead of them in the standings, so it’s natural that the players think that. All games are played on the ice. If we do not play at our best, we are not better than them.”
The Wild, who are in sixth place in the West, had a three-game winning streak snapped in the opener of a four-game road trip.
“We can’t blame the goalie,” Minnesota center Sergei Zholtok said. “You have to learn the lesson. We have two more games against them in the next couple of weeks. They are going to be huge games. You cannot take anyone lightly.”
Geoff Sanderson assisted on Columbus’ first two goals. On the power play, he got a feed from Cassels at the left side of the net and sent a pass to the top of the crease for Mike Sillinger, who tapped in his 17th goal to make it 2-0 just 6:05 into the contest.
Sanderson registered his second multi-point effort in four games after having none in the previous 21. He has two goals and five assists in the last eight contests.
“I just thought it was a real great 60 minutes, maybe as solid as we’ve had, and that’s exciting for us,” Columbus coach Doug MacLean said. “And Marc gets the shutout he’s deserved. He’s logged so many minutes. He’s one of the great young goalies in the game and he has a chance to be a great one.”
Denis came up with his best save midway through the first. With the Wild on the power play, Jim Dowd looked set to score at the left goalpost off a cross-ice pass, but Denis extended his stick across the crease to stop the puck and preserve his first shutout since February 12 against San Jose.
“It’s just one of those where I didn’t have a clue he was back there,” Denis said. “When I looked, all I had to put in the way was the stick. … You just get lucky every once in a while, and I did there.”
Off a pair of turnovers, David Ling fired a slap shot between the pads of a screened Fernandez and Cassels put the puck over the goalie’s right shoulder on a breakaway to make it 4-0 with 79 seconds left in the period.
“I just tried to wait and see what he was going to do,” Cassels said. “He went down a little early and I just shoveled it in the corner there and found a hole.”
Moments later, Ray Whitney’s slap shot from the top of the left circle glanced off Fernandez’s glove and shoulder before trickling into the net to cap Minnesota’s disastrous period.
The five-goal victory margin matched the largest in Columbus’ brief history. The Blue Jackets also blitzed Calgary, 7-2, on January 11.
“They came out of the gates and got two quick goals,” Johnson said. “To fight is to get our team going and get the guys on the bench going. Hopefully, something will turn around.”