Minnesota Wild\'s Matt Cullen, center, tries to get between Columbus Blue Jackets\' Fedor Tyutin, left, of Russia, and Aaron Johnson during the first period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2012, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)
COLUMBUS, Ohio - The game plan for the Columbus Blue Jackets was to come out strong and get the win for Todd Richards in his first game as coach against his former team.
Rookie defenceman David Savard scored his first career goal and added an assist to lift the Blue Jackets past the Minnesota Wild 3-1 on Tuesday night.
"My message to them (after the game) was I will sleep pretty good tonight and enjoy this one," said Richards, who is 4-7-1 for Columbus since taking over for Scott Arniel on Jan. 9.
Richards was 77-71-16 with the Wild from 2009-11 before being fired last April.
Antoine Vermette added a power-play goal and Jeff Carter scored his second goal in as many games after missing 10 with a shoulder injury for Columbus, which has a two-game winning streak for only the second time this season.
"We wanted to come out with our best effort and get a big win," Carter said.
Curtis Sanford made 28 saves to improve to 10-12-4.
Nate Prosser scored his first career goal for Minnesota, and Niklas Backstrom made 34 saves.
Wild coach Mike Yeo said the effort wasn't nearly good enough for a team trying to stay in the playoff race.
"The reality is that I don't think we deserved to win the game," he said. "It's a game of one-on-one battles and they got the better of us—by a large margin—in that department tonight."
Columbus played physical from the outset and outshot Minnesota 14-7 in the first period.
After Derek Dorsett had a thunderous check on Prosser behind the Wild goal, the two fought at 7:10 of the period with Dorsett landing punch after punch.
A bit later in the period, Savard scored with a shot from the point through traffic past Backstrom at 8:59.
"You never know when it's going to happen," said the 21-year-old Savard, who's played 18 career games. "The first one's done so hopefully there's more to come."
Unfazed by the tussle with Dorsett, Prossser sent a one-timer past a screened Sanford at 18:39 to tie it 1-1.
In the second period, Sanford kicked away a hard Erik Christensen power-play shot to keep the game even.
Vermette then made Columbus' next power play count, sliding in a backhand from the slot for his seventh goal at 15:31 to make it 2-1.
"We made some nice passes, we had good net presence and that turned out to be a big goal," Vermette said of his first in 11 games.
In the third period, Carter jammed home a rebound for his 12th goal at 5:38 to make it 3-1. Colton Gillies, recently claimed off waivers from Minnesota, and Savard picked up the assists.
"I'm really happy with the way we finished the game," Richards said. "They had a couple opportunities, (Sanford) stood strong and we were rewarded with a goal and carried it home the rest of the way."
NOTES: Wild captain Mikko Koivu missed his eighth straight game due to a shoulder injury. ... Christensen, acquired from the Rangers last week, made his Minnesota debut, finishing with 11:21 of ice time and a minus-2 rating. ... Savard became the 29th player to score for Columbus this season, a league high and a franchise record. ... The Wild's Nick Schultz was whistled for four minor penalties.