Tough night, tough finish for Wild

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 15, 2012 - 12:01 AM

Mikko Koivu might be the biggest casualty from a hard-fought shootout loss to St. Louis.

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St. Louis Blues' Kevin Shattenkirk (22) scores past Minnesota Wild goalie Josh Harding during a shootout of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Jan. 14, 2012, in St. Louis. The goal proved to be the game winner in the Blues' 3-2 victory.

Photo: Jeff Roberson, Associated Press - Ap

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ST. LOUIS - For those who think the Wild is always a Mikko Koivu injury away from disaster, that theory may be tested now.

The Wild captain appeared to sustain a left shoulder injury 7 1/2 minutes into the Wild's 3-2 shootout loss Saturday night to the big, bad St. Louis Blues at Scottrade Center.

Coach Mike Yeo offered no specifics regarding Koivu. He would only call it an "upper body" injury and said Wild doctors would examine him Sunday or Monday.

But Koivu was seen leaving the arena with his shoulder in a sling after the game.

Named to his first All-Star Game on Thursday, Koivu was hurt when checked by Vladimir Sobotka in the corner of the Blues' end. He immediately cradled his left arm and headed for the bench.

If he is out long-term, defenseman Justin Falk said the Wild must "do what we did tonight. Everyone's got to give a little more. We've got to find a way to fill that hole. It's a huge hole to fill."

Falk walked that talk Saturday. The hulking defenseman was physical, mean, blocked five of the Wild's 29 shots and drew 19 minutes worth of penalties from Blues captain David Backes in the first period.

In an arena where you'd better be ready to fight for every inch of ice (the Blues are 18-3-3 at home), the Wild put forth a gritty, physical effort before succumbing in the shootout.

Josh Harding, one game after calling his performance in Chicago "awful," made a career-high 47 saves before Kevin Shattenkirk won it in the extra, extra session. Minus Koivu and his 26 career shootout goals, Matt Cullen, Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi missed.

But the Wild felt it didn't spoil a game that featured big hits, scraps and skirmishes after every whistle.

"We stepped right up to the challenge and went right after it with them," Falk said. "... All the hard things needed to be done were being done by every single guy."

Making his first start in St. Louis since tearing two knee ligaments in last year's exhibition opener, Harding rebounded from a rocky performance in Chicago. In the first and third periods, Harding went 31-for-31.

"Anybody who watched the Chicago game, I wasn't there," Harding said. "I could make probably a lot of excuses, but at the end of the day I was brutal, but I wanted to make up for what I did."

The Wild jumped out to a 1-0 lead on David McIntyre's first NHL tally. After a great play by Darroll Powe, McIntyre redirected Cullen's slap pass with his shin.

"Ugly, but I'll take 'em any way I can get 'em," McIntyre said.

In the second, the Wild registered 17 shots in a period for the first time since Dec. 4. But the Blues rallied for a 2-1 lead on goals by David Perron and Alex Pietrangelo.

But Jared Spurgeon ended a 25-game goal drought with his first goal since Nov. 13 -- and on the power play to boot to end the team's 0-for-21 drought.

The Wild spent the first half of the third period on the penalty kill but gutted out the point.

Now it might face life without Koivu. It's 6-11-3 since 2008-09 without him, 0-3-1 this season.

"If we keep having efforts like that, we're going to give ourselves a great chance," Yeo said. "When you see guys fighting and scrapping and taking hits to make plays and blocking shots, it was very impressive. ... It's obviously an incredible loss with Mikko, but when he went down, there was an awful lot of leadership."

  • ST. LOUIS 3, WILD 2 (SO) • Up next: 6 p.m. Tuesday at Philadelphia • TV: FSN (100.3-FM)

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