Nino Niederrieter produces where ever he is at in the line-up and today, with Mike Yeo on the visiting bench for the first time since being given his walking papers last season, Niederreiter got to display just how good he is. Being bounced around the line-up and with time-on-ice around 14 minutes per game, he notched his 9th point in 10 games.
The St. Louis Blues blitzed the Wild early in the first period. Devan Dubnyk was sharp early as the Wild waited until 9:04 into the game to get their first shot on goal. That shot would also come on a Wild power play. In net for the Blues, Jake Allen wasn’t tested often as Minnesota only mustered six shots to the Blues’ 11 in the period. Allen was sensational in the game, and even stopped Eric Staal on a clear breakaway where Staal attempted his shootout winner move from Friday night in the victory over the Oilers.
The scoreless tie would broken at 45 seconds into the second period when Matt Dumba would score his second goal in as many games with a wrist shot from the slot over Jake Allen’s blocker. The Wild were trying to breakout of their own zone, when Dumba stepped up into the middle of the ice to join the rush when he received a pass from Zach Parise. Dumba skated into the Blues zone with speed and let go his wrister that caught twine. Dumba seems to have gained some scoring confidence since scoring against Edmonton.
Tonight was the “Give a 5” campaign to benefit Children’s Hospital of Minnesota. Obadiah Gamble, a former patient of Children’s started the game off the right way when he exclaimed “Let’s Play Hockey,” in rock star fashion. In the second period, Fox Sports North’s Kevin Gorg interviewed little Obadiah and right as the interview was concluding, Nino Niederreiter skated the puck into the high slot and threw the puck on goal. As it found the net through the five hole of Allen, Obadiah went nuts as the goal horn went off in Xcel Energy Center. It was really one of the best moments ever.
It was 2-0 until Vladimir Tarasenko got one back at 15:48 of the second. Jared Spurgeon joined the rush into the offensive zone, but skated himself too deep to make a play. As Robby Fabbri broke into the Wild zone, Spurgeon got back to deny him ice, but he found Tarasenko coming in off the bench and wide open for the shot that beat Dubnyk blocker side.
The Wild had to kill a carry-over power play for the Blues to start the third. Allen was truly amazing as he made some really crazy saves to keep his team within one goal. One such save was on Parise when Staal found him with a pass from the left corner to the right circle.
Mikko Koivu thought he scored when the puck crossed the goal line. However, on review, it was clear the puck was covered, and only crossed the line when Koivu pushed Allen into the net and the puck was jostled free. Head Coach Bruce Boudreau said after the game that he felt, “ this was our best third period all season.” Mikael Granlund would net an empty-net goal to make the score 3-1 and seal the Wild victory, but the real story is Eric Staal netting gaining an assist for his 800th career point. Truly a great milestone for the free agent acquisition last summer. Coupled with his contract, Staal has made himself quite the steal of a free agent signing as there was in the offseason.
The Wild have won four games in a row, and have gained at least a point in 9 of the last 10 games. For a team that seems to have found a recipe for success by playing solid defense, having a stalwart in the net, and gutting out these close one-goal games. Let’s see if this roll that the Wild are on can keep moving forward through December and into January.