ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — R.J. Umberger scored two goals, one on a power play with 21 seconds left in the second period, to send the Columbus Blue Jackets to a 3-1 victory over the stumbling Minnesota Wild on Saturday night.
Defenseman James Wisniewski had an empty-net goal in the final minute and added an assist in his first time back from a 17-game absence because of an ankle injury. Rick Nash assisted on both of Umberger’s goals to give the NHL-worst Blue Jackets their second win this week against the Wild.
Devin Setoguchi had a goal for the second straight game, a snap shot in the first period off a sharp pass by Mikko Koivu that gave the Wild the lead. But Umberger answered less than 5 minutes later, scoring on a slap shot that slipped through traffic and past goalie Niklas Backstrom with 56 seconds remaining in the opening frame of the physical game the Wild couldn’t afford to lose.
They controlled the flow for most of the night, outshooting the Blue Jackets 35-19 and generating plenty of prime chances near the net. But they struggled to catch passes cleanly, and despite a resurgence of energy after a lifeless effort in a loss to Vancouver on Thursday, the Wild dropped their fourth straight game.
The Wild are 5-15-5 since mid-December, when they had the NHL’s best record at the 30-game mark. Now they can’t even beat the Blue Jackets, who have been buried at the bottom of the Western Conference all season. Columbus won 3-1 at home against Minnesota on Tuesday.
Steve Mason made 34 saves and earned his first victory in seven starts since Dec. 29 for the Blue Jackets, with primary goalie Curtis Sanford scratched because of a back injury. Mason gave up 10 goals over his previous two turns.
Kyle Brodziak nearly broke the second-period tie at the beginning of a power play by trying to backhand a loose puck past Mason as he fell over in the crease. Mason was able to get his glove on it before it crossed the line, and the call of no-goal was upheld by a replay review.
Then Umberger knocked in a rebound over Backstrom’s head to give the Blue Jackets the lead in the waning seconds of the second period.
That was the first power-play goal scored by the Blue Jackets on Minnesota’s ice in eight matchups. They failed to score on 16 straight man-advantages until Umberger struck late in the second period.
Columbus also had two power-play goals on Thursday at Dallas in a 4-2 loss to the Stars.
NOTES: Wild RW Cal Clutterbuck took a hard hit from Fedor Tyutin and limped to the locker room in the second period. He didn’t return. … Nash has five points in four games. … Wild RW Brad Staubitz cleared waivers and was assigned to Houston of the AHL. He had no goals or assists, while averaging only 6½ minutes over 43 games, this season and was a healthy scratch in five of the previous seven games. The move left the Wild with only 21 players on the active roster. Their only scratch was D Justin Falk. He was replaced by D Mike Lundin, a healthy scratch in 16 of the previous 20 games.
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