It was a night of firsts and personal accomplishments for the Minnesota Wild. At the end of the night, the Wild were just too much for the St. Louis Blues who have struggled to put their game together early this season. The Wild limited the Blues to just 16 shots on goal in a 5-1 victory on the road in St. Louis. The Blues just did not have an answer for anything the Wild were throwing at them tonight.
The Wild came out with a little jump in their step for once, which was refreshing. From the opening drop of the puck the Wild were on their game. Great forechecking, bottling up the neutral zone, limiting chances. While they would not play blemish free hockey in the first period, it was pretty darn close. When your biggest complaint about the period is how fortunate Marcus Foligno might have been when Pat Maroon couldn’t get his gloves off for a fight late in the period, your team might be playing good hockey. Instead of fighting majors, both players received 2 minutes for roughing, but Foligno got his gloves off and clocked Maroon a couple times before the fight fizzled.
It’s not that Foligno can’t hold his own in a fight. It’s just at that point in the game you had a 3-1 score in your advantage against a Blues team looking for a spark from anywhere. Why give them that potential with a fight? It was a poor choice for Foligno, who has played really well lately especially on the penalty kill. There might be times to fight, but this game was not one of them.
The first milestone of the night came at 4:42 of the first period when Eric Staal deflected a shot from the faceoff dot past Jake Allen, scoring his 400th career NHL goal on one of the funkiest deflections you’ll see. Nick Seeler fired the shot well wide of the net and Staal got his stick down, backhanded, and deflected far side past Allen. Credit to Charlie Coyle as well for setting up a big screen in front of the Blues net.
Just 45 seconds later, Nick Seeler would score his first career NHL goal on an almost identical shot to the Staal goal. This one took a knock off a Blues defenseman before getting past Allen. Seeler, who had the lone assist an Staals marker will forever have the names Charlie Coyle and Jordan Greenway etched in his memory with the helpers on his first goal. Seeler would also finish the night with 3 points.
Ryan O’Reilly would edge the Blues back within 1 halfway through the period. He scored the lone Blues goal on the night on the power play, a pretty play where Vladimir Tarasenko sent a cross ice feed to O’Reilly and Devan Dubnyk was not able to get over in time to stop the shot. It was about the only bright spot in what was otherwise a pretty miserable night for the Blues.
With just under 2 minutes to go, Eric Fehr was causing some havoc in the neutral zone. He poked a puck free off the wall and J.T. Brown scooped it up from the Blues blue line and was in alone against Allen. Brown roofed one glove side on Allen giving the Wild a 3-1 lead to close out the first period. The Wild seemed to be targeting Allen’s glove quite a bit in the first period, but the bigger focus was on creating traffic in front of the net and setting up screens. For Brown, it would mark his first goal in a Wild sweater.
Matt Dumba would add a goal for the Wild in the second period, giving them a 4-1 advantage. The goal was significant in that it extended Mikael Granlund’s point streak to 10 games now when he earned the assist on Dumba’s goal. Mike Yeo would actually challenge that the play was offsides. A challenge he would lose and it would cost his team 2 minutes in the box for delay of game. Fortunately for Yeo, the Wild were unable to convert on any of their 4 power play opportunities on the night.
Midway through the third period the Wild would extend the lead to 5-1 off the stick of Eric Fehr who made a nice diving play for a rebound and was able to shuffle the puck past Allen. The Blues had essentially been lifeless for much of the game, losing battles for pucks along the wall, losing races to loose pucks, and their breakouts were getting mucked up by some excellent neutral zone play from the Wild. The Wild seemed to know just what the Blues were going to do, even before they did. (Looking at you Mike Yeo)
I’m not one to typically break out the charts in a recap, but check out the gameflow courtesy of NaturalStatTrick.com. It shows pretty clearly the Wild holding the advantage for virtually the entire game.
The Wild were able to do so well against the Blues tonight by limiting chances and staying out of the box. They held the Blues to just 16 shots on goal and blocked another 15. By contrast the Wild fired 45 shots at Jake Allen Saturday night in St. Louis, with the Blues blocking another 13. When Dubnyk was tested, he was in position and didn’t have to work too hard.
There may be no such thing as an easy night in the NHL, but you come away from Saturday night’s action feeling that was about as close to an easy night as you could have. Next up for your Minnesota Wild, we head back out to the west coast for another pair of midweek late, late, 9:30 pm CST starts. WOOF! Tuesday night the Wild will be in San Jose to face the Sharks, followed by Thursday night’s showdown against the Los Angeles Kings. Games 4 and 5 of this 7-game road trip which the Wild have earned 4 of a possible 6 points on so far.