Newcomers take center stage in Wild shootout loss to Blues
ST. PAUL, Minn. — Ilya Bryzgalov stepped out from the Minnesota Wild bench, leading the team onto the ice while still wearing blue-clad pads from his time with the Edmonton Oilers.
Byrzgalov wasn’t wearing his mask. That was nearby, wrapped with a Wild design, still not yet painted with a new color scheme for his new team. He was still wearing his old equipment after last week’s trade to Minnesota from Edmonton before the deadline and he was in the spotlight Sunday of a Wild push for the playoffs against one of the top teams in the Western Conference.
Facing the St. Louis Blues — a potential first-round playoff opponent — Bryzgalov got his first start for the Wild. He made 20 saves and fellow newcomer Matt Moulson scored his first goal with Minnesota in a 3-2 shootout loss to St. Louis, which overtook Anaheim for the top spot in the conference.
"Obviously you’re nervous because you playing for the new team a little bit, in front of the new crowd," Bryzgalov said. "It’s anyway, you’re not playing the first time in front of them but the first time for the team. It’s always special."
The start wasn’t how Bryzgalov or the Wild would have hoped against the Blues, an "intimidating" presence as one of the top teams in the league and a pain in Minnesota’s side this season.
St. Louis scored on its second shot of the game, a rebound goal by Olympic hero T.J. Oshie. Bryzgalov gave up two goals on the first three shots he faced.
Acquired from the Oilers for a fourth-round draft pick a day before last week’s trade deadline, the big netminder (6-foot-3, 213 pounds) found his way, stopping the final 19 shots he faced before the shootout.
"Obviously, tough start, but I thought that as the game went on he got better," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "A few chances that they had later in the game, especially, but I thought that he was catching pucks and settling things down. He didn’t need to be exceptional in this game, but I thought that he got better as the game went on."
Bryzgalov allowed goals to Oshie and Alexander Steen and has allowed four goals on five shootout attempts this season. He thought he had stopped Oshie, who captivated spectators when he scored four times in six shootout attempts in the Olympics against Russia. Somehow, Oshie found a spot.
"You know, pretty much I almost had it," Bryzgalov said. I don’t know how he raised it over the shoulder. I thought there was no way to go for him. I was completely surprised he scored on that one."
With Bryzgalov settling down and Moulson scoring his first goal, Minnesota responded against the Blues, who had won the first two games between the teams this season and outscored the Wild 5-1 in the process.
Moulson, acquired right before the deadline from the Buffalo Sabres for Torrey Mitchell and two second-round picks, chased a puck deep in the offensive zone, making a hit against a St. Louis player who sent the puck along the boards. But center Mikko Koivu collected the puck and sent it to the front of the goal, where Moulson had set up following the hit. Moulson tipped it home for his 18th goal of the season.
"I think obviously a really good group of guys in here and they’re really easy to play with," Moulson said. "A lot of structure in their game and real disciplined, so it’s been easy to try and fit in."
Two new players played big roles. Kyle Brodziak had his first fight of the season, dropping the gloves against Steve Ott as Minnesota tried to answer the physical Blues.
"Everybody knows that’s one of the most intimidating teams in the league," Brodziak said. "They’re big, they play physical. It was a good response by everybody tonight. I think maybe early on we didn’t go all in with it but I think as the game wore on we definitely started to have a pushback and we saw the benefit from doing that and being able to do that. Not a single guy shied away."
And the Wild found themselves matched up against a potential playoff opponent and the current No. 1 team in the league.
"I think that they thought they were going to take it to us physically and I think our guys responded to that," Yeo said. "I think we got into it, we started being physical on their defensemen. We really started to get in our game and from that point on, I thought we were the better team."
Follow Brian Hall on Twitter