Oshie's Hat Trick Leads Blues Past Wild
ST. LOUIS -- In recent weeks, T.J. Oshie went through the excitement of the Olympics, the birth of his first child, and Thursday night, his first career hat trick.
The focus of the St. Louis Blues right winger, however, is on what lies ahead for him and his team in the rest of the NHL regular season and the playoffs.
Oshie's three goals led the Blues to a 5-1 win over the Minnesota Wild, the team's 50th win of the season, allowing St. Louis to maintain a one-point lead over the Boston Bruins in the race for the best record in the league.
The Blues (50-16-7) have nine games left.
"It's been an exciting couple of months," Oshie said. "The hat trick was really a bonus. We're focusing on playing good team hockey right now, and that's what we got tonight.
"We want to make a statement around the league that we deserve to be where we are. We want the target on our back. Our goal going into tonight was to get the two points and make a statement, and we did a good job of doing that. If you get a little mental edge on someone, that plays a big part in the postseason."
The Wild (37-26-11) and Blues could meet in the first round of the playoffs, a fact that was not lost on Minnesota center Zach Parise.
"It was something we talked about before the game," Parise said. "We wanted to make it tough for them, and I don't think we did that."
Oshie's second goal of the game, a short-handed breakaway with just 26 seconds left in the first period, was a crucial point in the game.
The Wild also allowed two power-play goals, and they were blanked on all six of their power-play chances.
"We all know how important special teams are at this time of the year," Minnesota coach Mike Yeo said. "If you are minus one, that's one thing, but to have a night like tonight, it's extremely difficult. They smelled blood and they went after it."
Minnesota fell behind 5-0 before Parise ruined goalie Ryan Miller's shutout bid midway through the third period.
Oshie's second goal allowed him to reach the 20-game level for the first time in his career. He then finished off his hat trick 7:18 into the final period when he deflected a shot by defenseman Jay Bouwmeester into the net.
The Blues recorded hat tricks in consecutive games for the first time since December 2000. Center David Backes scored three goals against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday night.
Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said of Oshie's line, "They want to set a good tempo for us. They understand you have to be playing well going into the playoffs. We're not going to run and hide from being a good team. We're not going to be overwhelmed by the fact we are the favorite in a playoff series or expected to win. We're going to embrace it.
"I don't want us getting too far ahead of ourselves, but I look at these last nine games as strong prep in getting ready for the postseason. We have a great opportunity ahead of us. The players want to embrace that. I think they look at this like, 'Heck, why not us.' Everybody talks about our inexperience of getting far into the playoffs, but those other teams had to start somewhere to get to the finals. Why not us getting a chance to show how far we can go?"
NOTES: C Derek Roy returned to the Blues' lineup after missing the previous two games with a lower-body injury. ... The Blues began a five-game homestand Thursday. St. Louis will play six of its remaining nine games at Scottrade Center. ... The Blues' franchise record for wins is 51, set in the 1999-2000 season, the only time St. Louis won the President's Trophy. ... The last time the Wild won a game in regulation in St. Louis was on Oct. 20, 2007. ... The start time for the Blues' final game of the year on April 13 against the Detroit Red Wings was changed to 11:30 a.m. CDT. The game will be televised by NBC. ... The Blues host the Dallas Stars on Saturday, while the Wild continue a four-game road trip Saturday in Phoenix against the Coyotes.
By Rob Rains, The Sports Xchange