ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Cam Atkinson scored twice and the Columbus Blue Jackets stretched their winning streak to 15 games by stopping Minnesota’s 12-game run with a 4-2 victory over the Wild on Saturday night.
Never in NHL history had two teams taken winning streaks that long into a game, and Sergei Bobrovsky and the Blue Jackets made sure their party would stretch into the new year. Bobrovsky made 29 saves, yielding two or fewer goals for the 10th time during the run, and defensemen Jack Johnson and Seth Jones each had goals assisted by Brandon Saad in a frenetic second period sparked by consecutive fights.
Jason Zucker reignited the arena with his breakaway flip past Bobrovsky just 24 seconds into the third period for the Wild after he raced past Jones, but that was as close as they came. Devan Dubnyk stopped 21 shots, surrendering four goals for the second straight game after allowing three or fewer in his first 27 turns.
Mikael Granlund had the first goal for the Wild, who also had a franchise record-tying eight-game home winning streak end. This was their first loss since Dec. 2 in overtime at Calgary and their first defeat in regulation since Nov. 29 at Vancouver.
The Blue Jackets matched the second-longest winning streak in league history, trailing Pittsburgh’s 17-game run in 1993. Their last loss was in overtime at Florida on Nov. 26, and their last defeat in regulation was Nov. 23 against Calgary. Twelve of the 15 straight wins by Columbus have been in regulation.
This was the first time not only in the NHL but in any of the major North American sports leagues — including the NFL, MLB, NBA, MLS and WNBA — that two teams played with winning streaks of 12 games or longer, according to Elias Sports Bureau research.
Wild coach Bruce Boudreau downplayed the significance of this midseason inter-conference matchup, wryly referring to it as simply Game 36, but Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella spoke of embracing the occasion as a way for the players to get fired up and have some fun before the January doldrums arrive.
The energy and intensity on the ice was indicative of a pair of teams with plenty of pride, a makeshift rivalry of sorts based solely on current streaks. The crowd was another overflow sellout at Xcel Energy Center, a season-high 19,307 tickets sold, many of them well over face value on the secondary ticket market with the late-breaking demand.
The Wild had the first prime scoring chance, when Zach Parise failed to cleanly connect with a one-time attempt from the right circle and Bobrovsky whirled around for a diving glove save on the doorstep of the goal line. Atkinson got loose on a breakaway after an errant pass by Wild defenseman Christian Folin in the neutral zone for a 1-0 edge a little later.
Wild left wing Chris Stewart and Blue Jackets right wing Josh Anderson dropped their gloves in the second period, with Stewart flapping his arms to fire up the fans as he skated to the penalty box. Then Wild defenseman Matt Dumba and Blue Jackets left wing Matt Calvert followed with their own fight during the clock stoppage, each drawing a game misconduct ejection.
The Blue Jackets needed only 76 seconds to push their lead to 3-0, with a wrist shot by Johnson and a tip in by Atkinson.
With balanced scoring, strong goaltending, tight defense, good speed and accomplished coaching, there’s plenty in common between these fellow expansion teams born in 2000. Each team was playing well long before December, and eight of the top nine players in plus-minus rating are scattered between the two sides.
NOTES: Atkinson has nine goals and seven assists in the last 12 games. … Columbus has won seven of the last 10 games against Minnesota. … Until being outscored 3-1 by the Blue Jackets, the Wild owned a 44-22 advantage in the second period this season.
Columbus returns home to face Edmonton on Tuesday. After that, the Blue Jackets play 11 straight games against Eastern Conference teams.
Minnesota starts a three-game road swing at San Jose on Thursday. The Wild don’t play at home again until Jan. 12 against Montreal.