COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Rostislav Klesla celebrated a new four-year contract extension by scoring a goal midway through the third period Saturday night to push the Columbus Blue Jackets past the Minnesota Wild, 2-1 in the season opener for both teams.
Steve Mason, winner of last season’s Calder Trophy as the NHL rookie of the year, finished with 32 saves — several in the final minute when the Wild had a two-man advantage.
R.J. Umberger added a short-handed goal for Columbus, 15-13-4 in the series against the Wild, who came into the league at the same time.
Andrew Brunette scored for Minnesota. Niklas Backstrom had 37 saves.
The loss ruined the NHL head coaching debut of Todd Richards, part of a makeover by the Wild which also brought aboard new general manager Chuck Fletcher. They signed free agents Martin Havlat, Greg Zanon, Peter Sykora and Shane Hnidy to take the team in a new direction.
Before both teams’ ninth season opener, the Blue Jackets announced a contract extension for Klesla, the only player who has been with the club from the beginning. He was Columbus’ first draft pick, taken fourth overall, in the 2000 draft, before the Blue Jackets had ever played a game.
Klesla, whose deal was $11.9 million over four years, hadn’t scored a game-winner since Dec. 29, 2007.
Jakub Voracek collected the puck in the corner and slid a cross-ice pass to Klesla, who settled the puck and fired a hard shot that beat Backstrom high on the glove side with 10:10 left.
Blue Jackets defenseman Marc Methot was called for holding with 1:43 left, and the Wild pulled Backstrom for an extra attacker with a minute left.
Havlat picked up a loose puck after a blocked shot and fired it on goal, Mason stopping it with 50 seconds left. Umberger cleared the puck before Marek Zidlicky’s shot was deflected over the glass.
Each team had several prime scoring opportunities before the Blue Jackets finally found the net midway through the second period.
Methot chipped the puck away from Havlat near the Wild blue line. Umberger ended up with it along the left boards and he swooped in on Backstrom, faking before sliding the puck between his leg pads at the 10:30 mark.
Brunette tied it on a nifty move after taking a pass from the back boards from Mikko Koivu. Brunette faked Mason twice before slipping the puck past him.