The Blues’ 4-2 loss Thursday in Minnesota — their fourth consecutive defeat, fifth in seven games and seventh in 12 — comes at a higher cost than just continuing their unlikely late-season swoon.
Already without Vladimir Tarasenko for an unspecified amount of time, the Blues played without captain David Backes (day to day, lower-body injury) and then lost T.J. Oshie to a cheap shot from Minnesota’s Mike Rupp in the second period.
"Obviously, Osh is out. He’s like everything else at this time of year, he’s day to day," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock told reporters. "But certainly a tough hit to take right now."
St. Louis fell to 52-21-7, with 111 points in 80 games, losing to the Wild for the first time in five meetings this season. The Blues had outscored Minnesota, a potential first-round playoff opponent, 12-4 in those first four meetings.
Minnesota was starting its fifth different goalie this season and fifth against the Blues. But John Curry, a 30-year-old Minnesota native making his fifth NHL start and first since Jan. 16, 2010, was up to the challenge, making 43 saves in his Wild debut to earn the impressive victory.
Every time the Blues scored Thursday and attempted to seize the game’s momentum, the Wild answered with a goal less than two minutes later.
Kevin Shattenkirk’s power-play goal 11:05 into the second period, which tied the score at 1-1, was answered with a short-handed goal from Kyle Brodziak just 1:19 later.
After Jaden Schwartz scored a short-handed goal 16:01 into the second period to tie the score a second time, Matt Moulson put Minnesota back in front with a wrister only 1:29 later.
The Blues have shown an inability to keep fighting through adversity during their losing skid and did fare better in that department Thursday, but this time it was lapses on the defensive end that gave the Wild scoring opportunities on which they would capitalize.
WHAT IS UP WITH RYAN MILLER?
Ryan Miller has now allowed four goals in four of his last five starts.
The Blues’ blockbuster acquisition at the trade deadline has now allowed 27 goals over his last nine games. That’s an average of three per contest.
St. Louis is 3-6 during that span.
Miller, who was pulled after allowing the fourth goal, stopped just nine of 13 shots on goal for a season-low .692 save percentage.
It’s not fair to place all the blame on Miller, because his defense hasn’t helped him much at times, but he’s not inspiring confidence right now.
BLUES GET SHOTS ON GOAL
The Blues’ offense is predicated on volume of shots — getting as many shots on goal as possible — and the team did a great job of that against the Wild.
Their 45 shots were the most in eight games and second-most since Feb. 4. Schwartz, Shattenkirk and Alex Pietrangelo tied for the team lead with seven shots apiece, and Alexander Steen was right behind with six.
If there is a silver lining in this game for the Blues, it is that they were able to generate more shots on goal than they have recently.