Eric Staal is is the best. His line is en fuego. The Minnesota Wild are now winners of five in row after absolutely destroying the St. Louis Blues in St. Paul by a score of 8-3. Staal, who was the first Wild player to eclipse the 30-goal mark since Zach Parise did it in 2014-15, added to his team lead with a hat trick. He had to work for his hat trick, though.
Minnesota jumped out to a lead right away when Jason Zucker tipped a Ryan Suter shot through Jake Allen at the beginning of the Wild’s first power play.
(If you like goals, stick with this recap, because there’s plenty to go through).
The Wild were only just beginning. Zucker carried the puck over the Blues’ line with Mikael Granlund on his flank. It was a 2-on-2 break so Zucker, seeing no chance to make a clean pass skated deep and circled back to find Staal in the slot wide open as the late trailer. He shot and the puck went in. Minnesota was up 2-0 early and Jake Allen, who played out of his damn mind down the stretch last year, clearly isn’t that same goalie. Allen’s night would end after the first period after only making five saves on eight shots.
Vladimir Tarasenko continues to be very good against the Wild. His first goal of the game, coming at 9:59 of the first, cut into the Wild lead. Matt Dumba got pushed off the puck and it ended up on the most dangerous player on the ice’s stick. For a moment, it looked like the Wild were going to let Allen and the Blues off the hook by giving up the goal, but Granlund would answer.
The Wild were moving the puck around well, and had all kinds of pressure on the Blues. Nick Seeler’s shot from the left point would deflect out front. Granlund, like a soccer player trying to avoid a handball, chest bumped the puck away and then like a baseball player, bat the puck into the net out of mid-air. It was an impressive display of skill and why kids should play multiple sports.
The period would end with the Wild on top 3-1, shots even at eight, and a little shaky for the home team.
So shaky that just 15 whole seconds in to the second period, Alex Pietrangelo would score. Dumba again had a rough go of it trying to gap up on Jaden Schwartz, and allowed the two players to walk in and score. It was the worst game from number 24 in a long time, by far.
Not to worry, Staal will be the hero. He’d score on a 5-on-3 power play. Carter Hutton was inserted into the game coming out for the second period by Mike Yeo, but the Wild’s 5-on-3 power play got chance after chance, after chance. Hutton had some real thievery on display, but he couldn’t control a rebound , allowing Staal to pounce and score.
Mikko Koivu would get his 9th of the season when Coyle centered the puck from behind the net to make it 5-2.
Tarasenko would get his second of the night on a power play. The Wild penalty kill was 3-for-3 up until that Tarasenko goal, and finished 5-for-6 on the night.
Jared Spurgeon would score his 9th of the season when a pass across the ice missed Granlund and bounced off the boards to the point. Spurgeon took a one-timer and got a fortunate bounce off Jay Bouwmeester’s skate for the Wild’s sixth goal of the night.
Remember way back to the second goal of the game that I said Staal scored? Late in the second period, the goal was taken from Staal and credited to Granlund because the puck just glanced off of Granlund before going in.
So when Staal scored at 7:46 of the third period, a number fans thought it was a hat trick and rained hats down to the ice surface. It was a breakaway and a beautiful shot that sniped the upper right corner on Hutton.
For a fanbase that likes to chide others for not knowing the game or the situation, it was a time to eat crow as Wild fans. However, sister site St. Louis Game Time offered some reassurance.
Don’t laugh too hard at the fake hat trick for Staal. He’s probably getting one more anyway.— St. Louis Game Time-Proudly Unver1fied (@StLouisGameTime) February 28, 2018
It proved to be prophetic. The Wild already with a 7-3 lead and in complete control of the game with just 12:14 remaining would likely call off the dogs a little bit. Staal would get another chance. He’d get a glorious chance in the crease, but miss initially. the puck would bounce out the other side, and because Staal stuck with the play, got a second crack at it. The play was set up beautifully by Zucker as Staal came out of the left offensive corner and finished off his 14th career hat trick.
At the end of the night, Wild public relations tweeted out this bit of magic:
That line combined for 14 points as they handed the Blues a death nail in convincing fashion.
Up next, the Wild head to the southwest to face the Arizona Coyotes, who the Wild recently lost to in embarrassing fashion after having a 3-0 lead, and the Colorado Avalanche. The Avs gave the Wild the business last time at Pepsi Center and Avalanche fans loved every single minute of it. Just ask them. Should be a good road trip to test if the Wild’s road woes are really behind them.