Two teams with identical records get together at Nationwide Arena on Thursday night when the Columbus Blue Jackets play host to the Minnesota Wild.
The Blue Jackets (14-8-2, 30 points) are trending upward. They’ve gone 7-2-1 in their last two games and return home after a wild 7-5 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Monday night.
The Wild (14-8-2, 30 points) have won six of the past 10 games. But in Minnesota’s most recent outing, it blew a 3-1 lead and lost 4-3 at home to the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday night.
The Wild players were clearly frustrated with their effort after giving up three consecutive goals when they appeared to be in good position to win.
“We keep playing down to the level of competition that comes into this building,” Wild winger Marcus Foligno told reporters. “It’s getting to be embarrassing to set yourself up really good for the third. (The opponents) have no momentum, and yet we just seem like it’s a job and let teams come back in. That’s on us.
“That’s a mental thing here. It’s not that we’re a bad hockey team. We’re a good hockey team. We’ve got to play great, though.”
The Wild were 6-1-1 when leading after two periods before the collapse. Goaltender Devan Dubnyk couldn’t explain what happened.
“I don’t know,” he repeated several times.
Losing leads has become a trend. The same thing happened six days earlier when the Wild gave up a three-goal lead in a 6-4 loss to the Ottawa Senators at home.
“We’ll have to get back to practice and try to figure out a way to be better in the third periods. Hopefully, we can bring it next game,” Wild forward Eric Fehr said after the latest loss. “We’ll have to look at the tape a little bit and see what we did and what they did to get their scoring chances. That’s a game we have to have at home, no doubt.”
That loss left the Wild in third place in the Central Division. Colorado has surged past Minnesota into second place behind Nashville in the division with five straight victories.
The Blue Jackets also let a lead slip away their last time out, but they were able to hold off the Red Wings and bounce back from a road loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins two nights earlier.
Columbus led Detroit 3-0 after one period and 5-1 in the second period before almost frittering away what could have been a relatively stress-free win on the road.
“We got up 5-1 and we think it’s point night now,” Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said. “It’s funny what happens. They forgot how to check, not forgot how to check, they thought it was going to be an easy night and there’s no easy nights.”
Blue Jackets center Pierre-Luc Dubois scored early in the third period after the Red Wings had closed within one goal to make it 6-4 and defenseman Seth Jones added an empty-netter to seal the win.
Blue Jackets winger Artemi Panarin ended a 12-game streak without a goal, but linemate Cam Atkinson’s franchise record-tying run of seven games with a goal ended.
Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, who is 7-3-0 in his last 10 games after getting off to a slow start this season, managed to pick up the victory in Detroit with 27 saves despite giving up five goals. He stopped all nine Detroit shots in the opening period.
“This is a league that, if your goaltender is really good, you have a really good team and they play with confidence,” Tortorella said, according to The Columbus Dispatch. “The coach is dynamite, when the goalie’s on. If the goalie’s struggling, the team is two inches tall and the coach (stinks). That’s just the way this business is.”
Tortorella will coach his 1,200th NHL game on Thursday, becoming the 18th coach in league history and the fifth active coach to reach that milestone.
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