ST. LOUIS – Wild defenseman Nick Seeler wasn’t sure if the goal belonged to him.
He heard the puck kiss the post before it rolled over the goal line, but it wasn’t until his teammates huddled around him that he knew.
“It was exciting,” he said.
Not only did Seeler tally his first NHL goal during a three-point effort Saturday in a 5-1 rout of the Blues at Enterprise Center, but he was one of the team’s best defenders – a well-rounded performance that mimicked how the entire team played.
“I just told Seeler, ‘I’ll be expecting that more often now,’” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “That was a pretty good game – three points and plus-4 – and [defensive partner Greg] Pateryn [was] plus-5. When you get that out of your fifth, sixth ‘D,’ it shows balance and that’s what we’ve been trying to preach all year long.”
Seeler’s goal in the first period stood up as the game-winner, and he also set up center Eric Staal’s 400th career goal before helping out on the fifth tally of the night.
While his focus on the third pairing is to be stingy in the Wild’s end, Seeler believes that type of approach can breed offense – which it certainly did Saturday.
“I think the offense will come when it presents itself,” Seeler said. “Just focus on the ‘D’ zone and get the pucks moving up to the forwards and create offense when it's there.”
Seeler’s night wasn’t the only memorable one for the Wild.
Pateryn was on the ice for all five of the team’s goal, tying a franchise record at plus-five for a Wild defenseman.
He and Seeler were a dynamic duo against the Blues, underscoring how well the two have gelled together since they were united in training camp.
“We were moving the puck well and just getting our shots through,” Pateryn said. “It just goes to show you that persistency pays off. I think we just continued being solid and kept our game simple, and that’s what eventually comes of it. It shows what we’re made of. That was a fun game to play.”
Their showing also reaffirmed how tough it is for seventh defenseman Nate Prosser to crack the lineup.
“What would I do now, put Nate in after a guy’s plus-5?” Boudreau said. “That’s pretty hard to do.”
Winger J.T. Brown made an impression, scoring his first goal with the Wild.
Brown converted on a breakaway late in the first period, a great response to reinstate the team’s two-goal cushion after the Blues capitalized on the power play earlier in the frame.
The goal was timely; with veteran Matt Hendricks cleared to play, the team now has another option to consider for the fourth line.
“It always feels good to score but I think at the end of the day, we want to get the two points,” Brown said. “We want to win. I don’t know if that was necessarily on my mind when I’m going in, but it feels good.”
Said Boudreau: “He obviously doesn’t want to come out of the lineup, which is good. You want guys to compete for that spot.”
Boudreau also acknowledged the other winger on the fourth line, Marcus Foligno, who jumped over the boards out of turn late in the first to challenge Blues winger Patrick Maroon following a hit Maroon laid on captain Mikko Koivu.
“It was really good to see,” Boudreau said. “It really means A, you’re watching the game and B, you really know who your leaders are.”
Not much of a fight ensued, with Foligno holding back as Maroon struggled, but the message was sent.
“I didn’t like [the hit on Koivu],” Foligno said. “I thought it was just a little too late. He’s in a vulnerable position. It’s not a from-behind check, but those ones are dangerous because the head gets hit off the glass. To me, it’s just protecting your captain and I think it got the boys going even more.”