As the trade deadline looms, each game for the Minnesota Wild from this point forward needs to have a playoff feel if they are serious about the postseason. Before puck drop, the Wild sat only four points out of the final wild card spot in the Western Conference. However, they failed to close the gap Sunday night as the St. Louis Blues came into Xcel Energy Center and took control from the outset.
The Blues struck first 11 minutes into the opening frame, as St. Louis was able to move the puck nicely through the neutral zone. Marco Scandella fired a ripper at Devan Dubnyk, which was deflected straight out to Jordan Kyrou, who skated to his right and finished from a difficult angle.
Just over three minutes later, the Blues would add to their lead after Eric Staal turned the puck over in their defensive zone. Jaden Schwartz took advantage of the turnover and found Brayden Schenn, who ripped a heater past Dubnyk into the top right corner on his glove side.
It was truly a disappointing start for a team fighting to keep its playoff hopes alive, and it was even more nerve-plucking that it had to come against a division rival.
The Wild would finally get on the board early in the second period to cut the deficit to one as Marcus Foligno flicked a shot over the head of Jordan Binnington. The puck initially looked to be hit by Foligno’s stick above the crossbar, but the goal was eventually confirmed by the officials. It was the first goal the Binnington had given up in over 142 minutes of game time.
However, St. Louis fired right back as the Wild, once again, could not clear the puck out of their defensive zone. After three consecutive turnovers, Oskar Sundqvist was able rip one into the right side of the net. As good teams do, the Blues capitalized on Minnesota’s mistakes, and it cost the Wild.
St. Louis found the back of the net once again for good measure just under five minutes into the final frame, but this time playing down a man. After forcing a Minnesota turnover, it was an exhibition of two-man hockey and puck movement, as Sundqvist and Ivan Barbashev teamed up for the Blues’ fourth goal of the night. Barbashev received Sundqvist’s feed on the rush and buried it past Dubnyk on his left side for the nifty finish.
The final score was 4-1, but from an emotional standpoint, it honestly felt like it was 10-0. The arena was quiet for a great portion of the game and it eventually sounded like you could hear a pin drop. It’s disappointing to have a performance like this in front of a national audience, but perhaps it’s for the best. This loss serves as a clear signal that changes are necessary for this franchise to join the class of the elite.
The Wild are back in action on Tuesday night as they take on the Columbus Blue Jackets inside of Xcel Energy Center. Needless to say, it’s fair to wonder just how different the team will look in its next contest.
Answers to our Burning Questions
1. How will Dubnyk perform?
It was a tough night for Dubnyk. When four goals are sacrificed, things normally do not end well. He made some highlight-reel saves and wasn’t helped out by his defense on occasions, but the effort was not enough against this high-powered Blues team. All Wild fans know the caliber of player that Dubnyk can be, and one can only hope he eventually finds that consistent form again soon.
2. Will Fiala dazzle again?
Kevin Fiala had a few flashy moments early on in the game and showed some nice puck control in spots, but no one — and absolutely no one — dazzled on this night.
3. Will this be the night Staal finally gets back on the scoresheet?
Simply put, nope. The only goal for Minnesota on this night came from Marcus Foligno. Staal’s struggles continue.
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