The St. Louis Blues went through a relatively easy stretch of games, pushing their win streak to three, but two of those wins coming against non-playoff teams. Facing the Minnesota Wild, the Blues were looking at a similar team to themselves and one that is likely a playoff opponent.
St. Louis got off to a very good start. They were moving around, hustling and drew an early penalty.
Pavel Buchnevich would make Minnesota pay. At 4:35, he slipped one past the goaltender for a 1-0 Blues lead.
The Blues picked up the physicality after that. They were finishing their checks, looking to send a message to the team they are likely to face in the first round.
The overall hitting was very high. There were 37 combined hits between the two teams when 40 minutes had been played, with the Blues having the slight edge.
Unfortunately, despite being the better team for the most part, the Blues could not carry the lead into the intermission. Minnesota tied it with less than two minutes left in the first.
Nikko Mikkola had a bad zone exit, turning the puck over right in front of his bench. St. Louis never quite got set on the ensuing possession by Minnesota and the Wild cashed in on a rebound after Ville Husso made the initial save from the point.
The Blues from a couple years ago returned in the second period. The Blues just could not match Minnesota’s intensity in the second period.
St. Louis barely had any offense to speak of. They finished the period with six shots, but only had two shots through about 16 minutes of play.
It was another weak puck play that cost St. Louis in this period as well. This time, Robert Thomas made some ridiculous bumper pass off the wall, thinking it would get to Mikkola behind the net.
It bounced off a Wild player, they stole it and found Kirill Kaprisov for the finish in front and a 2-1 Minnesota lead. Mikkola looked bad for not recovering and Kaprisov being open out front, but this was all on Thomas.
If he doesn’t try that foolish pass, then things go as they were supposed to. Instead, the Wild carried a one-goal lead into the locker room.
The Blues mounted a late charge in the period. Half the arena and just as many fans at home thought Buchnevich had number two late in the frame, but the puck refused to sneak under the goaltender and a lucky save kept the Blues at just one goal for the game to that point.
Things did not get much better in the third. Minnesota scored just 18 seconds into the period.
They also had two grade-A chances on the following shift. Husso needed to make two big saves to at least give St. Louis a chance to come back.
The Blues started a comeback not long after. 4:16 into the period, Justin Faulk charged up the right wing and simply fired one into the upper corner on the glove side to make it 3-2.
The game went in an odd back and forth ping-pong match after that. Husso, again, had to make some huge saves on scramble plays.
After one such flurry of activity, just over halfway through the period, the Blues countered. Like Faulk, Brayden Schenn cut up the left wing, toward the goal line and then slid in front and scooped in a backhander for a 3-3 game.
The Blues seemed to have found a recipe for success there. Vladimir Tarasenko tried a similar move just minutes later, but ran out of real estate and did not have the room to scoop the puck up.
The Blues clamped down on the defense and Husso kept it all calm. St. Louis forced overtime, though that has not been a good thing this year.
After a good push by St. Louis, the Wild kept cycling the puck and wearing down the Blues forwards. After a save, they grabbed the puck and got a much needed change.
Right off that change, Robert Thomas flew up the right wing and dropped the puck inside the line for Tarasenko. The Russian winger returned the favor with a cross-ice pass and Thomas connected on a one-timer and a 4-3 Blues win.
Pros: Thomasenkvich line
There’s no good nickname for this line. It’s always just a bad mishmash of the last names.
Regardless of that, they were one of the best lines for the Blues all game long. They were all instrumental in the victory too.
Obviously, Buchnevich got the game started with a goal. Thomas picked up the assist on that power play tally, giving him two points on the night by the end.
Tarasenko did not get on the goal sheet, but it was not for lack of trying. He finished the game with seven shots and had several good looks, including that hard rush to the net where he just ran out of room.
Thomas got the game winner in impressive fashion. Just last year, the Blues center would have skied that puck over the net, but he kept it on frame and got the reward.
As nice as the goal was, the pass was just as good. Tarasenko proved why he’s considered a top playmaker as well as scorer.
Cons: Second period
Credit goes to the Wild for coming out of that first intermission on a mission. They had designs on taking the game over and pretty much did, except for the goals.
If not for the Blues goaltender, the game might have been out of reach in the second. Minnesota outshot the Blues 11-6.
The shot totals weren’t really even that close. The Blues had two, until late, and even the late flurry wasn’t all that great in terms of quality chances.
Minnesota kept the puck in their offensive zone for the bulk of the period. For those that watch soccer, it was almost as though the Blues were trying to park the bus.
The hits disappeared until the last five minutes or so too. Again, some of that is due to Minnesota keeping away from hit scenarios, but the Blues also just lost some edge.
For the fourth game in a row that Husso has featured in, he has been a big reason the Blues got anything out of it.
He came in for relief in Edmonton and the Blues salvaged a point. He was good despite allowing four goals to Calgary.
Husso didn’t have as much to do against Arizona and Seattle, but he still needed to be sharp. In this game, he was the big reason the Blues won, if not the main reason.
The way the Blues allowed the Wild into all the gaps, they should have had four or five or more goals in regulation.
Husso kept the Blues in it, whether it was 2-1 or 3-1. If not for his multiple saves just prior to some Blues goals, the result would have been entirely different.
This was a big win for the Blues. Not only was it important for the standings, but it continues to give St. Louis confidence.
The win now ties them with Minnesota, both teams having 92 points as of the end of this contest. The Wild still get the nod for second place due to still having a game in hand. How they haven’t played that game yet is beyond me, but that’s neither here nor there.
The Blues gave up way too many looks. They allowed 38 shots, 60 attempts and 17 quality chances. That’s a lot of movement to force on your goaltender, whether he had to make the save or not.
Offensively, the Blues made the most out of their chances. You’d like to see more than 28 shots, but when you can score four on that many, you’ll take it.
Beyond the x’s and o’s, this was a fantastic win just for confidence. There’s still plenty that can happen, but the likely scenario is Blues vs. Minnesota in the first round, no matter who gets home ice.
The Blues have looked good against the Wild all season. They took them to the woodshed in the Winter Classic and stole all that thunder.
Picking up the win tonight means the Blues win the season series. The Wild have a chance for retribution next Saturday, but even then the Blues would have won two to one, but we’ll see if they can get a sweep a week from now.
St. Louis needs to keep focus and take down the New York Islanders next. There can be no let up.