Curtis McElhinney’s shutout leads Columbus past Wild, 4-0
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The Columbus Blue Jackets took advantage of the Minnesota Wild, who were coming off an emotional game a day earlier.
The Blue Jackets got goals from Cam Atkinson, Nick Foligno, Boone Jenner and R.J. Umberger and Curtis McElhinney posted his first shutout since 2011 in a 4-0 victory on Friday night.
“We talked about them playing last night and there was definitely an emphasis to jump all over them,” Umberger said, referring to the Wild’s 4-3 home win over Chicago. “We were moving pretty good.”
The Blue Jackets had not played since Tuesday, filling the time with two hard, full practices in which they were able to work on several problem areas.
Minnesota’s Zach Parise knew his team didn’t have its heart in the game.
“We were just flat and not crisp,” he said. “We were pretty brutal through the neutral zone and couldn’t get anything generated.”
Wild coach Mike Yeo didn’t want to use his club’s first home win over the Blackhawks since 2008 as an excuse, but still thought that was the root of his club’s problems.
“We played right into that (being tired), too, turning pucks over,” he said. “We were on our heels, slow reacting, slow getting to places. We were not pressing the way we needed to be.”
It was the Blue Jackets’ second win in a row, the first time they’ve won back-to-back games since Oct. 25.
They did it in their first game without last year’s Vezina Trophy winner as the NHL’s top goalie, Sergei Bobrovsky, who will miss the next month or so with a strained groin.
McElhinney made 20 saves in his first shutout since Feb. 5, 2011, while with the Anaheim Ducks.
“It’s a good feeling for me to step in here again and have another shutout game, another win,” he said, referring to the Blue Jackets’ consecutive shutouts. “Hopefully, it’s the start of something good and we can keep it going.”
Foligno and Umberger each also had assists and Ryan Johansen added two assists to stretch his points streak to four games.
The Blue Jackets have been struggling with injuries.
In addition to Bobrovsky, top offensive threat Marian Gaborik (sprained knee) is out for another two weeks and top offseason free-agent signing Nathan Horton (shoulder surgery) has yet to play in a Columbus sweater and likely won’t be ready for at least another month.
McElhinney’s third NHL shutout came in his 78th game.
After a scoreless first period, the Blue Jackets took over.
At the 1:17 mark of the second, Atkinson took a pass from Dubinsky and wristed a shot from the top of the right circle that Minnesota goalie Niklas Backstrom didn’t appear to see. He barely moved as the puck beat him high and near his right shoulder.
“Some games it’s tougher to swallow the puck when you don’t see it,” he said.
The Blue Jackets went on their first power play when Matt Cooke went off for hooking. Columbus soon took advantage on the man advantage.
Johansen passed to Umberger for a shot from a hard angle that handcuffed Backstrom, with Johansen then following the puck to get a whack at it on the rebound.
Before the puck could be cleared, Foligno found the net on his second attempt from the right doorstep at the 5:40 mark.
“We were able to maintain our energy and continue to push,” Foligno said. “You saw great efforts from everybody tonight — and Curtis McElhinney shut the door.”
The Wild had a prime chance to get back in the game when they had 1:13 of a 5-on-3 advantage midway through the second period.
But McElhinney smothered a hard slap shot from the left point by Jason Pominville and then later appeared to stop a high shot by Zach Parise off his mask.
“The big thing was that 5 on 3,” Columbus coach Todd Richards said. “That was a critical point of the game. Curtis made probably three great saves for us and our (penalty) killers did a great job.”
Columbus was still controlling the play early in the third when, on a 3-on-3 rush, Jenner wristed a shot from the top of the left circle that eluded Backstrom high on his glove side. The goal, at the 4:38 mark, was the rookie’s third of the season.
Umberger closed the scoring at the 9:05 mark when, while trailing the play, he benefited from a nifty feed from Foligno. Foligno had only one defender to beat but instead whipped a blind pass to Umberger who had virtually an empty net.
NOTES: The Blue Jackets improved to 35-0 under Richards when leading after two periods. … It was the Wild’s third loss in a row on the road. … Minnesota has been shut out in two of its past three games.