Game Report: Wild 5, Blues 1

By Nicholas Hand

The common theme for the Blues in the first half of the season was inconsistency. The theme continued in their final game before the All-Star break on Thursday night with a loss to the Wild in St. Paul, Minn.

Goaltender Carter Hutton, who was rewarded with Thursday’s start after a shutout in Pittsburgh, was pulled after allowing five goals on 30 shots with 17:49 left in regulation.

After an impressive 3-0 shutout by St. Louis against the Penguins on Tuesday, the Blues looked similar in a scoreless first period that saw the Blues outshoot the Wild 10-8.

But the second period quickly disintegrated from all angles. The trouble started early as Erik Haula scored his 10th of the season just 23 seconds into the middle frame.

Just over four minutes later, the Blues evened the score on a breakaway goal from Vladimir Tarasenko, which snapped an eight-game goalless streak for the Blues sniper. An outlet pass by Jori Lehtera was one-touched in the neutral zone by Jaden Schwartz sending Tarasenko in all alone on Devan Dubnyk, beating the goaltender through his five-hole at 4:47.

Tyler Graovac gave the Wild the lead for good at 12:19 on his fourth of the season after the puck deflected off his skate following a rush towards the goal by Nino Niederreiter. Mikko Koivu scored a backbreaking goal on the power play against the Blues with just 12 seconds remaining in the period after several defensive breakdowns, including two blown chances to clear the zone. The goal gave Minnesota a 3-1 lead.

Niederreiter and Mikael Granlund scored in the opening minutes of the third period extending the lead to 5-1 and chasing Hutton from the game.

Jake Allen relieved Hutton and made three saves on three shots faced in the final period.

The Blues are now 24-20-5 on the season (53 points) and are holding one of two wild card spots in the Western Conference at the All-Star break.

Of Note:
Ivan Barbashev made his NHL debut centering the Blues fourth line. Barbashev logged 10:03 of ice time registering a shot and goal and four hits… Barbashev replaces Kyle Brodziak who suffered a right foot injury in Tuesday’s game. The Blues expect Brodziak to miss at least five weeks. The loss is a costly one for the Blues as Brodziak is a key member of the Blues penalty kill unit.

Looking Ahead:
The Blues are off until Tuesday when they take on the Winnipeg Jets at Scottrade Center. The All-Star Game is Sunday in Los Angeles. Tarasenko will represent the team in the game.