COLUMBUS — Just getting to the .500 mark might seem like a minor accomplishment to many teams. For the injury-ravaged Columbus Blue Jackets, however, it means the world.
Kevin Connauton had a goal and an assist and Sergei Bobrovsky made 28 saves to lead the Blue Jackets past the Minnesota Wild 3-1 on Wednesday night.
“It’s a credit to the guys,” coach Todd Richards said after the Blue Jackets improved to 16-16-3 after a horrific 6-15-2 start, when they were without as many as nine top players. “Where we were a month and a half ago, that was a big hole. To get back to .500 is a good spot considering where we were. But we can’t be satisfied with it.”
Columbus scored a power-play goal at 5:57 of the third with the score tied at 1.
Cycling the puck, Connauton slid a pass to David Savard at the top of the left circle. His hard one-timer beat goalie Darcy Kuemper stick side inside the near post.
Ryan Johansen added an empty-netter for his first goal in 12 games.
“We made our mistakes and Bob made some big saves,” said Johansen. “It wasn’t the prettiest win, but we’ll take it.”
Brandon Dubinsky had two assists for Columbus, which went 10-1-1 in December. It was the third time in franchise history that the Blue Jackets won at least 10 games in a month.
“Hockey’s a game where when things are going well, (they) sort of (come) in bunches,” said Connauton, a waiver pickup from Dallas on Nov. 18 who has been an important part of the club’s turnaround. “We’re just on one of those hot streaks right now and we just have to keep working on it and the good things will keep happening.”
NOTES: During pregame warmups, Columbus announced it had extended the contract of left wing Nick Foligno through the 2020-21 season for a reported $33 million. … Foligno was playing in his 500th career NHL game. … The Blue Jackets placed RW Cam Atkinson on the injured list on Tuesday (shoulder). He’s expected to miss a week or two. … Minnesota came in having lost 86 man games to injury; Columbus had lost 223.