Blues, Wild meet for fourth and final time
(AP) — The St. Louis Blues got right back on track after a loss with a lopsided win over a lesser opponent their last time out. A matchup with another struggling team should give them a good chance to continue their push for the top spot in the Western Conference.
The surging Blues look to extend the Minnesota Wild’s losing streak to seven when the teams meet for the fourth time this season Saturday at the Scottrade Center.
St. Louis (35-15-7) rebounded from a 2-1 defeat to NHL-worst Columbus on Tuesday – which snapped a four-game winning streak – with a 5-1 victory over the New York Islanders on Thursday. T.J. Oshie had a goal and two assists and Alex Pietrangelo added three assists for the Blues, who fell behind 59 seconds in before taking control with all of their goals in the first and second periods.
Still, coach Ken Hitchcock wasn’t thrilled with his team’s defensive effort. St. Louis gave up 26 shots and was outshot 10-7 in the third, two days after the Blue Jackets held a 33-32 advantage in shots.
“Our best player tonight was our goalie. Our goalie was terrific,” Hitchcock said of Brian Elliott, the NHL goals-against average leader at 1.61. “Our goalie (backup Jaroslav Halak) was our best player the last game that we lost.
“We’re giving up far too many chances. We’re getting beat in areas that we haven’t gotten beat at in all year and we’re going to have to address it and get going, get a little bit better.”
The Blues, though, have done enough to go 14-3-2 in their last 19 and are pushing Detroit and Vancouver for first place in the West. St. Louis is holding down the fourth playoff spot in the conference.
That’s due in large part to having the most points at home in the league with a 25-3-4 record. St. Louis has gone 8-0-1 in its last nine at the Scottrade Center, giving up 10 goals in that stretch, and has points in a team-record 20 straight home games.
The Blues appear to have an excellent opportunity to extend that home dominance against the Wild (25-23-9), who have managed nine goals during their six-game slide. The league’s second-lowest scoring team has dropped two in a row on the road and scored one goal in five of its last six road contests.
Minnesota posted its highest offensive output since Jan. 31 on Thursday but lost 4-3 in a shootout to Winnipeg. Mikko Koivu’s first goal since Dec. 29 gave the Wild a 3-2 lead at 1:03 of the third period, but they surrendered the equalizer exactly 2 minutes later.
Minnesota fell to 10-9-5 when scoring first, the worst such record in the NHL.
“It sits on all of us,” defenseman Nick Schultz said of the club’s struggles to score.
The Wild lead the season series with the Blues 2-0-1, but Minnesota’s victories came in November when it was in the midst of a 20-7-3 start. St. Louis took the most recent meeting 3-2 in a shootout Jan. 14 at home, a chippy game that included three fights and 66 penalty minutes.
All three matchups have been decided by one goal.
Halak started all of those, giving up two goals each time. Elliott, though, has posted a 1.10 GAA in winning his last four starts.
St. Louis left wing David Perron has seven goals and two assists during a six-game point streak.