After a loss on Tuesday night in Nashville that saw the Minnesota Wild’s 10-game point streak come to an end, Minnesota looked to rebound against fellow Central Division foe St. Louis Blues. The Blues came into Friday night hot, winning three in a row and only giving up two goals in their last two games. With the third best powerplay in the league, and with Minnesota’s penalty kill having a horrible showing Tuesday night, St. Louis was likely licking their chops and aiming to draw as many powerplays as possible. To win, Minnesota would need to have a better start than they did Tuesday night, find a way to get the puck in the back of the net, and not let their emotions pave a way to the penalty box. Additionally, Minnesota would be without Matt Dumba, Matt Boldy, and Jon Merrill. With St. Louis one point behind Minnesota with one game in hand, this one was destined to be a big one.
With Cam Talbot between the pipes, and some altered lines in front of him, the game got underway.
From the drop of the opening faceoff, the game had the feeling of a playoff game. After several minutes of chances for both teams, Foligno was whistled for a questionable trip on Schenn and the lethal St. Louis powerplay took the ice.
The Wild’s penalty kill woes continued, with a great passing play by the Blues ending up in the back of the net.
The Wild quickly returned to the box after not having the same five players on the ice and were called for delay of game. Dean had been letting the refs have it about the first call, which might have factored into the decision, especially considering they did not receive a warning. Unlike the first time, Minnesota was able to kill it off.
A couple minutes after the kill, the Wild got their first chance on the man advantage after Kaprizov was interfered with by fellow Russian Tarasenko. The Wild were unable to convert and the Blues returned to full strength. Seconds after it expired, the teams went to 4 on 4 after Bjugstad and Mikola were whistled for embellishment (somehow) and tripping.
It seemed Dean wasn’t thrilled with the call either and the jawing at Kozari continued.
With less than two minutes left in the period, Kevin Fiala finished a Tyson Jost rebound to tie the game. Fiala had been the Wild’s best player of the period and was rewarded for going to the net.
Despite probably having less chances and being on the wrong side of the officials, Minnesota was able to leave the first period with a tie. With a playoff feel through one, it felt like the game was going to be tight checking until the end.
Just about four minutes into the second, Minnesota got their second powerplay of the night after Eriksson Ek was hooked. The Wild earned this one after a great start to the period and were rewarded for continued zone time. Minnesota was unable to capitalize.
The first ten minutes of the period were relatively quiet. Just past the 10 minute mark, a pretty quiet night for Kaprizov ended and he found the back of the net. A St. Louis defenseman threw the puck in the slot and hit a streaking Kaprizov, who had just gotten on the ice. Kaprizov beat Husso and Minnesota gained their first lead of the night.
While the Wild dominated the first 15 minutes of the period, the Blues found some possession in the final 5. Without this save by Talbot, the great period would have been effectively erased.
The great second period for the Wild came to a close, with the Wild maintaining their one goal lead on the back of a great period in terms of possession.
Just over 15 seconds into the third, Jake Middleton kept his best night in a Wild sweater rolling, beating Husso from the point with a great shot.
St. Louis didn’t go away without a fight. 4 minutes later, Justin Faulk beat Cam Talbot short side on a relatively innocent rush.
The comeback continued, with Schenn evening the game up after walking by Jordie Benn and beating Talbot. This one stung extra, as Jost was denied on a high danger chance by Husso right before the odd man rush going the other way. Minnesota, in rare form, was the team blowing the lead in the third instead of the team catching up.
With the two goal lead gone, Minnesota couldn’t seem to find any momentum to slow the bleeding. After neither team could score at the end of regulation, the teams both earned a crucial point and headed to the extra frame.
Just under a minute and a half into overtime, Robert Thomas ran a great 2 on 2 with Tarasenko, leaving Gaudreau in no mans land and getting a well placed one-timer past Cam Talbot.
The Wild fell 4-3, with St. Louis scoring the final three goals of the game. For a team that has been dominant, especially when behind, in third periods this season, Minnesota got a taste of their own medicine. After having a great second period, Minnesota was worked in the third. By the time it got to overtime, Minnesota looked sluggish and confused, with an uncharacteristic defensive error by Gaudreau costing them the OT winner.
St. Louis improves to 11-1-1 against Minnesota over the last three seasons. Considering they are the favorite to be the first round matchup, the Wild might want to try to figure that out...
Will the Wild’s “toughness” get in the way of winning?
Despite the large stakes, the Wild kept their emotions in control. The first period saw poor officiating hand St. Louis a powerplay, and thus a lead, but the Wild didn’t hang their head and scored the next three. Much of the momentum for the great middle frame came from the play of the bottom six forwards. However, the team was not ready for the push that St. Louis made in the third period. With two losses against potential first round matchups in a row in games that have felt as close to the playoffs as they get, Minnesota will need to figure out a way to change the trend if they want to have any postseason success.
With Matt Dumba out, how does Jordie Benn perform?
Benn had a decent start to the night, but after getting walked around in a relatively low danger play, it is clear why he has been out of the lineup. His patience with the puck is a good attribute, but his skating makes him borderline unplayable against great offensive teams like St. Louis. If the Wild want to make a run in the playoffs, they will need their defensive core healthy.