After only a few shifts of Tuesday’s 2-1 victory over the Wild, St. Louis coach Mike Yeo knew his team was ready for a peak performance at Xcel Energy Center.
“It was rolling, one right after another,’’ Yeo said. “You could tell right from the drop of the puck that we were ready to go.’’
The view from the other bench wasn’t so rosy. The Wild outshot St. Louis 33-20, but it wilted in the face of a solid Blues defense as it lost for the second time in three games. While goalie Jake Allen narrowly missed his fourth shutout of the season, Wild coach Bruce Boudreau and his players regretted that they didn’t make it harder for him to earn his victory.
The Blues scored at 10 minutes, 24 seconds of the first period on a pretty deflection by David Perron. Vladimir Tarasenko made it 2-0 at 11:03 of the third, and the Wild did not score until Mikko Koivu’s shot from the left point bounced past Allen with 10.5 seconds remaining.
Yeo urged his team, which is fighting for a playoff spot, to “make a statement’’ with a road victory over the second-best team in the NHL. The Blues followed through on a night when Boudreau lamented his own team’s lack of spark.
“[Allen] saw everything,’’ Boudreau said of the goalie, who stopped 13 shots in the third period. “And when a goalie sees everything in this league, he’s going to stop everything.
“You could see there was no energy. I could tell from the first two minutes of the game that we didn’t have a lot of jump or pizazz.’’
The Blues, clinging to the second Western Conference wild-card berth, stretched their lead over Los Angeles to three points. Though they still are struggling to score, their defense kept the Wild in check for most of the game.
They allowed the Wild little space to operate and consistently boxed Minnesota players out in front of the net. Boudreau tried scrambling his lines to get something going, but elevating Nino Niederreiter to left wing on the Koivu-Mikael Granlund line didn’t have much effect. The Wild had trouble corralling passes and establishing any kind of offensive flow, and it often settled for outside shots.
Most of the first five minutes was played in the Wild’s end, quieting a crowd announced at 19,124. The Wild did little to rouse them until it got its sole fortunate bounce of the game, when Koivu’s shot hit the ice in front of Allen and hopped past him.
“That start just wasn’t us. It wasn’t our team,’’ winger Jason Pominville said. “We didn’t get to the net as much as we usually do to create those secondary opportunities. It wasn’t the way we’re accustomed to playing.’’
Boudreau predicted the Blues would be difficult to beat, despite a five-game losing streak that ended only last Sunday. Yeo knew what a victory would do for his team’s confidence. He instructed his players to match the Wild’s aggression and display some “attitude’’ in front of the net, which he considered key to generating offense.
Perron proved him right, establishing position in front of Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk for a perfect deflection of Colton Parayko’s point shot for a 1-0 lead. The Wild missed on a few good opportunities, particularly a breakaway by Eric Staal, but the Blues were faster and fiercer throughout.
They made it 2-0 when Tarasenko, all alone in the right circle, knocked in a slick backhand pass from Jaden Schwartz. While Boudreau complained that his players didn’t win enough battles, Yeo — the former Wild coach — was glad to leave with his first victory as a head coach over his former team.
“I’d be lying if it didn’t feel pretty good,’’ Yeo said. “But in all honesty, we wanted this one for our group. We knew if we could come in and win, it would be a real boost.’’