The Wild played a patient, mostly monotonous road game to find itself on the winning end of a 3-1 score. Kevin Shattenkirk scored for the Blues, but the Wild answered back with goals from Nino Niederreiter, Erik Haula, and Thomas Vanek.
Both teams skated to a scoreless tie in the first period, with each team tallying 10 shots apiece. With the Wild's Zach Parise and the Blues' Vadimir Tarasenko out of the line-up, both teams scratched and clawed their ways through a locked down neutral zone. There just wasn't much room to get much of anything going. Devan Dubnyk was challenged with the tougher shots faced, but Jake Allen in net for the Blues was very good too. Chris Porter took a high stick to the chin area that wasn't called for an early power play chance for Minnesota, but the gushing blood was evidence that it actually happened, let alone the fact that he was quite perturbed on the bench at the referees that the play wasn't called.
In the second period, Saint Louis got out to the better start. After Justin Fontaine was called for high sticking, and Marco Scandella sent the puck over the glass for a delay of game call, Kevin Shattenkirk scored to open the scoring. Actually, the WIld penalty kill was able to kill off the first penalty, but a failed clearing attempt allowed the Blues to keep the offensive zone. But the Wild tried to answer right back. Ryan Reaves gave the Wild its first power play chance and Minnesota, while not scoring, did gain some really good momentum. After killing off another penalty, Justin Fontaine took a shot from the right circle that was tailored for a rebound ended up on the tape of Nino Niederreiter's stick for the tying marker.
Nino had himself a game. As Wild beat writer Michael Russo tweeted, "When Nino is on, this guy is on." He stood up Colton Parayko when the Blues rookie tried to initiate contact. Nino scored the goal and also added an assist later on Haula's game-winning goal. It was Niederreiter's second goal in eight games after going 15 games before then without a goal.
The flow of the game seemed to open up a bit in the third period. Devan Dubnyk had to make some really great saves, and the defensemen did a fantastic job of eliminating second chances for the Blues. Dubnyk would end up makeing 33 saves on the night. At the 11:27 mark of the third, a hard forecheck from Niederreiter behind the net allowed him to get the puck to Erik Haula positioned at the bottom of the right circle to Allen's left. Haula let a shot go from the bad angle, the the puck found its way into the net. Saint Louis attempted to find the equalizer, but Dubnyk's two-pad stack on Blues' rookie sensation Robby Fabbri. When the Blues pulled Allen for the extra-attacker, Thomas Vanek capped off the night with an empty net goal.
The Wild finished December with a 9-3-2 record in a month they've historically struggled in. The Wild shave been able to stem the negativity that December normally holds for them.
Minnesota now heads to south Florida to take on the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday.
Happy New Year from Hockey Wilderness!!! Hopefully 2016 is kind to us Wild fans!