Blues beat Wild to end 3-game losing streak
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) Brian Elliott might have been the last person to find out about his team acquiring another big-name defenseman.
He had other things to worry about, like getting the St. Louis Blues back on track after a late-season slump and another injury to starting goalie Jaroslav Halak.
Jaden Schwartz and Andy McDonald each had a goal and an assist, Elliott stepped in and made 19 saves, and the Blues snapped a three-game losing streak by beating the Minnesota Wild 4-1 on Monday night.
Dany Heatley scored for the Wild, whose home winning streak ended at four games. Minnesota lost for just the sixth time in its last 21 games overall.
When told that his team acquired defenseman Jay Bouwmeester from Calgary in exchange for a first-round pick and two prospects during the first intermission, Elliott got a puzzled look on his face.
“What trade?” he asked. “I didn’t even know that until right now.”
Kevin Shattenkirk and Barret Jackman also scored for St. Louis, which acquired Bouwmeester 48 hours after trading for defenseman Jordan Leopold. Wearing No. 33, Leopold made his Blues’ debut on Monday.
But Elliott was more worried about getting his mind right after entering the game with 12.5 seconds left in the first period for the injured Halak.
“It’s part of the job description. You gotta be ready to go,” he said.
Elliott’s play was a major reason why the Wild failed to score on five power plays and looked more like the offensively-inept squad that started the season.
“It just kind of levels us back down to earth a little bit,” Devin Setoguchi said. “We were getting away from the things that made us successful during our streak. When you try to cheat and take shortcuts and aren’t hard on pucks, and get pucks in and out, that’s when they start going in on you. A couple turnovers and a couple goals for them.”
St. Louis began the day out of the playoffs and staring at a stretch in which it plays six of the next seven on the road. Bouwmeester is expected to be on the ice Thursday against Chicago, the top team in the Western Conference.
Halak left the game with 12.5 seconds to go in the first period after sprawling to try and make a save on a slap shot. Halak had missed time previously this season with a groin injury.
Elliott, fresh off a two-game conditioning assignment in the minors, stepped in and stopped 19 of the 20 shots he faced, including all 14 in the third period.
“We’re a desperate team right now. We needed points as bad as anyone,” said center David Backes.
Elliott was especially strong early in the third when the Wild unleashed six shots in the opening five minutes.
On the other end, Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom’s career-best and team-record eight-game winning streak ended.
Schwartz got a clean look from the right circle midway through the first period and beat Backstrom over his right glove.
In the second, McDonald put his own rebound past Backstrom to make it 2-1 at 12:17. Less than two minutes later, Shattenkirk sent a shot from the point through traffic that made it 3-1.
Led by free-agent signees Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, as well as captain Mikko Koivu, the Wild scored four or more goals in six of their last nine games entering Monday and put themselves in the hunt for the Northwest Division title.
But the exciting trio was kept off the board Monday and the rest of the Wild were unable to pick up the slack.
“I would say all the recent success might have given us a bit of a reminder of things that we need to be doing,” Wild coach Mike Yeo said. “It made us play a game that gave us a reminder of some of the things that we need to do to be effective, to be successful.”
While the Wild made their moves in the offseason, the Blues are acquiring new players to make a final push to try and make the playoffs and see what happens.
“It shows that we’re making some moves to bolster the group of guys that we have in here,” Backes said. “We felt we had a good group before, but two new defensemen with a lot of experience never hurts anybody.”
NOTES: The two prospects in the Bouwmeester trade are defenseman Mark Cundari and goaltender Reto Berra. … If St. Louis does not qualify for this year’s playoffs, the Flames will receive St. Louis’ fourth-round selection in this summer’s draft, with the first-round pick being deferred to 2014. … Koivu missed time in the first period after getting hit in the face with Chris Stewart’s stick. … Wild forward Matt Cullen was injured late in the second period and did not play in the third. … Jake Allen was assigned to AHL Peoria to make room for Elliott. … The Blues also announced that the Vancouver Canucks have agreed to buy Peoria Rivermen, pending approval from the AHL.