It wasn’t exactly the start the Minnesota Wild wanted – or the type of game they wanted, for that matter. Going down 3-0 in the first period against a division rival and leader makes for an uphill battle in the final 40 minutes of play. They didn’t recover after that.
“When you try to chase the game, it’s really difficult,” said coach Bruce Boudreau.
The Wild (11-9-3) marched to the penalty box eight times in their 6-3 loss to the division-leading St. Louis Blues (17-6-1). The Wild’s stellar penalty kill came in allowing just two goals in 30 chances over the past 10 games. Against the Blues, they allowed three goals when they were down a man.
Special teams were definitely a factor in the game – each team scored a short-handed goal and each team scored with the man advantage. The Blues scored three power-play goals coming into the game with a 25th-ranked power play and just 22nd at home; they had just five goals on home ice with the man advantage before the game.
Unfortunately for the Wild, they allowed six goals and a whopping 40 shots on goal while allowing the Blues offense to go to work throughout the game. The slow start in the first period was just the beginning.
“I think they’re a really good hockey club,” Boudreau said of the Blues. “I just don’t think we played anywhere near the capabilities that we’re capable of playing.”
The Blues had a community effort for their trio of goals in the first, getting a power-play tally from Paul Stastny, plus goals from Dmitrij Jaskin and Jaden Schwartz with his 12th of the season. Four different Blues players assisted on the goals.
Kyle Quincey had a rough first period, too. It was his turnover that led to the second Blues goal. He gave the puck up right near his own goal. Near the end of the period, he sat in the box for a high-sticking penalty.
Chris Stewart tried to spark his teammates with a lengthy fight with Chris Thorburn at center ice just after the Blues took a 2-0 leads but it didn’t seem to do much. Well, at least on the scoreboard.
The Blues scored three goals on their first eight shots of the game.
The Wild had some chances. Nino Niederreiter couldn’t bury the puck with an open-net chance. Tyler Ennis broke toward the goal and couldn’t convert. Zack Mitchell had a scoring chance. Mikko Koivu had goaltender Jake Allen sprawled on the ice and promptly shot the puck into his leg pads.
It was still pretty one-sided in the second period. Devan Dubnyk responded with 19 saves and no goals allowed as the Blues outshot the Wild 19-9 in the middle 20 minutes. The Wild did manage a goal, though.
Charlie Coyle, who scored in the shootout win against Colorado the day before, officially scored his first goal of the season to get the Wild on the board. With the Wild on their fifth penalty kill of the game, Coyle grabbed a loose puck turned over by Blues player Sammy Blais (who would later score the sixth goal of the game for the Blues) and fired a wrister past Allen on the glove side for the unassisted goal. It was also the first short-handed goal of his career.
Early in the third, the Blues kept the pressure on before Jared Spurgeon went down and shot the puck off the crossbar. The Wild got a power play, but a Spurgeon turnover at the blue line sent former Wild player Kyle Brodziak in for a breakaway, short-handed goal to make it 4-1. It was his third goal of the season. Mitchell quickly responded with his second goal of the season, a power-play tally, to make it 4-2. Then Eric Staal scored his eighth goal of the season off the rush for a 4-3 game. They had some life getting within a goal, but it was short-lived.
“We fought back but too little too late… We’ve got to stay out of the box,” Coyle said.
The Blues finished it off with two more power-play goals – one from Schwartz for his second goal of the game. Schwartz has 13 goals and 19 assists for a team-leading 32 points this season.
Fittingly, the Wild ended the game shorthanded.
Dubnyk (9-7-2) with 34 saves. Allen (13-5-1) with 22 saves.
Niederreiter failed to score a goal, ending his career-high goal streak at six games. One more would have set the franchise record. He also saw his eight-game point streak end. One more: His five-game, power-play goal streak also came to a close.
Koivu hasn’t scored a goal in 14 games.
The Wild have scored power-play goals in six straight games. They’re 10-for-21 over the last six games on the power play.
The Wild allowed a season-high eight power plays for the opponent. Their penalty kill entered the game ranked third in the NHL but just 16th on the road.
Counting the 2017 first-round playoff series, the Wild are 1-5 in their last six meetings with the Blues. The Wild are 10-15-8 during regular season games in St. Louis.
The Wild finish up a trio of games against the Central Division with a Monday-night game in Winnipeg to face the Jets.
Listen to Heather Every Week on the Cold Omaha Staff Pod!