Koivu cleans up for Wild in win over Blue Jackets
ST. PAUL (AP) -- Starting fast hasn't been a strength of the Minnesota Wild of late. Instead, the Wild have been trying to win with frantic rallies.
Mikko Koivu changed that in Minnesota's 4-2 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday night.
In its first 10 games this month, Minnesota had given up the first goal eight times. That was a big reason why the Wild entered the game against Columbus on a four-game losing streak.
Aggressive from the start, the Wild avoided an early hole.
Minnesota opened the scoring 3:41 in on Koivu's goal that was confirmed by video review. From behind the net, Antti Miettinen found Koivu in the slot. It was originally unclear whether Koivu's shot got between Mason's right leg and the post.
After a lengthy review, the shot was ruled in and Koivu had his 15th of the season.
"I couldn't see the puck. I knew it was close," said Koivu, who leads Minnesota in scoring.
While Koivu said that scoring first doesn't guarantee anything, it was certainly important to build confidence. Minnesota led after the first period for only the second time in 14 games.
"It was one of the best first periods we've had in a long time," Minnesota goalie Niklas Backstrom said. "It was just nice to get the lead. But it was one good first period, now we have to make sure we keep doing it."
Koivu, who will represent Finland in next month's Vancouver Olympics, wasn't through. He got the Wild going early in the second period, as well. His shot from just above the right circle got past a screened Mason at 1:26, giving the Minnesota captain his second multigoal game this season.
Less than 3 minutes later, Eric Belanger turned and fired a puck in the direction of the Columbus net without really looking. The puck went between Mason's legs to make it 3-0.
"In games where you are struggling, you look to your leaders. There were some guys that stepped up, older players with Mikko being one of them," Wild coach Todd Richards said. "He had two big goals, and Miettinen makes a good play behind the net, and (Andrew Brunette) starts the play. The three of them executed and made plays.
"The second goal was just a great shot, quick. He stepped up his game. When you're struggling, you look to those guys."
While the Wild changed their recent fortunes, the game was much of the same for the Blue Jackets. In each of the previous six games, Columbus had given up a goal in the first 2:29. The Blue Jackets have allowed a first-period goal in 10 of 11 games.
The Wild are 21-7-3 when scoring at least three goals.
Backstrom was solid in stopping 22 shots. Backstrom, who will also play for Finland in the Olympics, appeared on his way to his second shutout of the season, but Columbus got goals from Rick Nash and Antoine Vermette in the final minute.
"The only thing that matters is to get the two points and get the win," Backstrom said.
The Blue Jackets, however, realize that the season is quickly slipping away and they can't continue to fall behind.
"We're desperate for points," Nash said. "If we're going to make a run here we need to start it right now. I thought we played desperate on Thursday night, but tonight we didn't play desperate for the full 60."
NOTES: Robbie Earl scored his fifth goal in only 15 games for the Wild when he beat Mason late in the third period. ... Josh Harding served as the Wild's backup goalie after injuring his left hip Thursday in a shootout loss to Detroit. Harding was expected to miss one to two weeks, but didn't even sit out one game. ... Columbus completed a three-game road trip. The Blue Jackets will play eight of 10 and 17 of their final 28 games at home. ... Columbus was without RW Jakub Voracek, who was injured when elbowed by Boston's Michael Ryder on Thursday.