The Minnesota Wild battled hard but in the end fell in a shootout 3-2 to the St. Louis Blues Sunday night at the Xcel Energy Center. The St. Louis victory moves them to the top of the NHL with 94 points while the Wild’s lead in the Western Conference Wild Card race fell to 3 points over the Dallas Stars. St. Louis extended their win streak to 5 games while the Wild have now picked up a point in the standings in 7 of their last 8 contests. The Wild had a rough start Sunday night and fell behind 2-0 just 8:30 into the first period. Then Minnesota came to life and tied the game with a pair of goals in 7:03 of the second period to tie the game. Newcomer Matt Moulson and Wild goal scoring leader Jason Pominville scored for Minnesota From that point on the two teams battled for a scoreless 57:57 through regulation and overtime. In the shootout, Sochi Winter Olympics shootout hero, T.J. Oshie and Alexander Steen scored while Blues net minder Brian Elliot stopped Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu to take the second point. Minnesota has now earned a point in The Wild have 18 games remaining and trail the Colorado Avalanche by 14 points in the race for third in the Central Division. Catching the Av’s is looking more and more like a pipe dream for the Wild and the race for a , let alone the top, Wild Card spot is the teams primary focus.
Sunday was the inaugural outing for Ilya Bryzgalov and while the end result was a shootout loss he looked good for most of the game. He made a total of 20 saves on 22 shots after surrendering 2 goals on the first 3 shots he faced. The Blues first goal of the night came from the stick of T.J. Oshie. The power play goal came with the Wild’s Jason Pominville in the penalty box on an interference call. The Blues would go 1 for 2 with the man advantage while the Wild were o for 3 with the extra skater. St. Louis would take a 2-0 lead just under 5 minutes later as Carlo Colaiacovo scored his first goal in 43 games dating back to last season. Sloppy play led to both Blues goals including a Charlie Coyle turnover behind the Wild net that ended with Colaiacovo beating Bryzgalov up high to take the 2-0 lead.
The Wild would clamp down defensively after the second St. Louis goal and get their own offense going late in the opening period. Just 3:11 into the second period Jason Pominville would score his team leading 23nd goal of the season. He took a Zach Parise feed in the left circle and put a wrister up high off the pipe to cut the St. Louis lead in half. The second assist on the play went to Ryan Suter his 29th of the season, the primary assist was Parise’s 19th giving him a total of 40 points on the season. Minnesota would strike again less than 4 minutes later when Matt Moulson scoerd his first goal in a Wild sweater. Moulson started the play with a hard check on the back wall that caused the Blues Kirk Shattenkirk to hurry and misfire with his clearing attempt. Mikko Koivu intercepted the clearing attempt, gathered the puck in and sent a precision pass to Moulson who had parked himself at the side of the net, forgotten by the Blues defense. All Moulson had to do then was keep his stick on the ice and tap Koivu’s pass into the net to tie the game at 2 apiece. That would be the extent of scoring for the rest of regulation and five minutes of overtime. Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo in his post game comments said, “We were competing. We had a couple shifts in the offensive zone. I think they thought they were going to take it to us physically. I think our guys responded to that. Our guys started being physical with their defensemen and we really started to get to our game.” The physical nature of the game be cam apparent from the opening draw. Just 2:30 into the game Kyle Brodziak dropped the gloves with St, Louis yapper and tough guy, Steve Ott. This was Brodziak’s first fight of the season and he more than held his own against Ott, staggering the Blues enforcer with a wicked uppercut, after which Ott just hung on until the linesman jumped in to separate the pair.
The games second point was up for grabs after 37:57 of scoreless hockey. It wasn’t for a lack of trying there was no scoring in the second half of the second period and the entire third stanza. Both teams had several golden opportunities to take the lead but each time Bryzgalov or Elliot were up to the task making some spectacular saves in the process. One such save came with Jonas Brodin looking at an empty with Elliot out of position on the far side of the crease. Just as Brodinshot the puck Elliot dove to his side and just barely got a piece of the puck sending it skittering just wide of the goal. While the shootout loss was the first for Bzyzgalov with the Wild he demonstrated that he is going to be an excellent backup to Darcy Kuemper. With four more back to back sets of games this season you can count on seeing Brygalov a few more times during the remaining regular season games.
All in all the Minnesota Wild showed they can compete and play with the best the NHL has to offer. The line up is healthy and some new faces are fitting in well. It’s a sprint to the finish over the last 18 games in the course of 35 days. Up next for the Wild is a visit from the Edmonton Oilers who Minnesota shutout in Edmonton just 11 days ago. Every game i s a must win at this point. While the Colorado Avalanche may be out of reach in third place in the division, Dallas, Phoenix, and Vancouver are nipping at their heels. I’ll be back with a preview of the Wild vs the Oilers on Tuesday morning. Until then this is Scott Drain calling out, “LET’S GO WILD!!”