Blues need shootout to top Wild for 8th straight time
By Jess Myers, The Sports Xchange - SAINT PAUL, Minn. -- They win via shutout. They win via shootout. They win close games. They win ugly games.
Whenever the St. Louis Blues face Minnesota, they just keep winning.
Center T.J. Oshie and left winger Alexander Steen scored in a shootout Sunday, lifting the Blues to a 3-2 win over the Wild and continuing St. Louis' run of dominance over its Central Division counterpart.
Goalie Brian Elliott had 17 saves for the Blues, who won their eighth in a row against Minnesota. Oshie and defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo also scored in regulation for St. Louis (44-14-6).
"That stat might be a little swayed," center David Backes, the Blues' captain, said of his team's winning streak vs.Minnesota. "You look at a shootout victory, it's two points for us and one for them, but that was a pretty darn even game. They were right there, and we've found ways to win those close games."
Minnesota (34-22-8) failed to score on either of its shootout attempts.
Trailing 2-0 after a period, the Wild rallied to tie on second-period goals by right winger Jason Pominville and recently acquired left winger Matt Moulson, but the Wild lost their second game in a row. Goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, who came to Minnesota in a trade from the Edmonton Oilers last week, made 21 saves in his first start for the Wild.
"Third game in four nights," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We showed some tired legs today, but we battled through it. All in all, it was a good road trip, but I thought we looked more the tired team today."
Oshie got things rolling for the Blues, slipping St. Louis' second shot of the game past Bryzgalov on an early power play. It was the 16th goal of the season for Oshie, who beat Bryzgalov again in the shootout on a wrist shot. Oshie and Wild left winger Zach Parise were teammates on the American squad at the recent Winter Olympics, and the Blues star joked that there may have been some inside information leaked to the Wild's new goalie.
"I think I was talking to Zach about that move tonight over in Sochi, and he might have told Bryz what it was," Oshie said. "It seemed like he had me, and I got a little lucky. It must've just squeaked inside the post. I got a little fortunate on that one, but I'll keep taking them."
The Blues' third shot of the game went in as well. Colaiacovo found himself all alone with the puck in the slot, and he ripped a high shot into the upper left corner of the net. It was the first goal of the season for Colaiacovo, and his first in over a year.
"We weren't executing to start the game," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "We were slow to move the puck. Once we started executing and picking our pace up, we were able to get pucks in behind their defensemen and get to our game."
Minnesota finally answered early in the second period. Pominville ripped a rising shot from the left faceoff circle over Elliott's glove, off the far post and into the net, making the score 2-1. Shortly thereafter, Moulson tied the game, tipping in a shot by center Mikko Koivu past Elliott from the top of the crease.
"We gave them kind of 10 minutes in the first period, and sometimes that will come back to hurt you no matter how hard you play," said Moulson, who scored his 18th goal of the season and his first with the Wild after he came over from the Buffalo Sabres in a deadline-day trade. "I thought we played pretty well the rest of the game, but we have to find a way to get that third one."
The Blues thought they had taken a 3-2 lead early in the third, as the puck slipped over the goal line during a scramble in front of Bryzgalov. However, the officials ruled no goal on the ice, then reviewed the play to affirm the whistle blew before the puck went in.
Elliott made the save of the game later in the third, stretching out with his stick to deflect a shot by Wild center Mikael Granlund, who was alone in front of the net and appeared poised for a tap-in goal. It was the first start for Elliott since the Blues acquired goalie Ryan Miller in a Feb. 28 trade.
"I tried to kind of charge him because I thought he was going to tip it," Elliott said of the save on Granlund. "He managed to stop and pull it around me, so it was desperation. I try to rob the guys in practice, and sometimes it pays off when you can make those stick saves in games."
NOTES: St. Louis G Brian Elliott started Sunday despite a freak injury he suffered while serving as the backup goalie Saturday afternoon during the Blues' win in Colorado. An errant puck struck Elliott in the face in the third period while he was on the bench and not wearing a helmet. He left the bench and received stitches on the inside of his mouth. ... On Sunday, Wild G Darcy Kuemper had a night off for the first time since Jan. 11, snapping a team-record string of 16 consecutive starts by a rookie netminder. ... Wild officials said they do not expect any additional discipline levied against LW Erik Haula. The rookie received a five-minute major penalty and a game misconduct Saturday in the third period of the Wild's 4-3 loss in Dallas after a collision with Stars G Kari Lehtonen. ... The Wild, in the midst of a four-game homestand, host the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday. The Blues return to St. Louis where they entertain the Dallas Stars on Tuesday.