ST. LOUIS – Everybody in the St. Louis Blues’ dressing room talked Thursday about sending a loud and clear message to the Wild.
Just in case the crumbling team from Minnesota fell into the eighth playoff spot and a likely first-round matchup with the big, bad, NHL-leading Blues, defenseman Barret Jackman said it was time to “throw everything at them and put doubt in their mind.”
Like there wasn’t already doubt.
The Blues beat the Wild for a ninth consecutive time Thursday night, and this 5-1 loss was like most every one of the Wild’s losses at Scottrade Center.
Quick, painful and absolutely convincing.
The Wild hasn’t won in regulation in St. Louis since Oct. 2007, a span of 12 games (3-7-2).
“We talked before the game about how that’s a team we could face in the first round. We wanted to make it tough on them, and I don’t think we did that,” said Zach Parise, who erased Ryan Miller’s shutout bid with the Wild down 5-0 in the third period. “They play a frustrating style of hockey. They’re in your face all over. There’s not a lot of room in the offensive zone.”
It was the Wild’s ninth loss in 12 games (3-5-4) since the March 5 trade deadline. Its position in the standings is becoming increasingly shaky.
With a shootout victory over New Jersey, the eighth-place Coyotes pulled within one point of the Wild heading into Saturday’s Wild-Coyotes showdown. That means the Wild is perilously close to facing the Blues in the first round, and that’s only if this rickety team doesn’t blow its playoff spot.
The ninth-place Stars are six points behind and have played two fewer games.
The Blues did everything to get in the Wild’s grill, from incessant post-whistle scrums to nasty net-front, stick-swinging battles. T.J. Oshie played with swagger and scored his first career hat trick. His sidekick — brash, hard-nosed captain David Backes — cross-checked little Jared Spurgeon, crushed little Mikael Granlund and ruthlessly trash-talked goalie Darcy Kuemper from the bench.
Kuemper initiated things with Backes by cross-checking him at the goalmouth, then got in his face.
“That’s where I’ve played a long time,” Backes said. “When I feel disrespected, I’m going to stand my ground and see if there’s any response.”
Said Kuemper: “I was just competing for sightlines, and he’s a competitor and I’m a competitor.”
Defenseman Ryan Suter said, “I thought we came out flying,” and the Wild did have an 8-1 shot advantage 3½ minutes into the game, including a five-shot, scoreless power play. Minutes later, Oshie, who hails from Warroad, Minn., scored easily.
But the way the game unraveled was unbelievable even by Wild standards. Late in the first, Cody McCormick — acquired to stand up to gruff teams such as St. Louis — got away with elbowing Kevin Shattenkirk and drew a four-minute power play. It was a golden opportunity to either tie the score or take the lead.
Instead, the Wild didn’t register a shot and Spurgeon coughed the puck up to Oshie for a shorthanded breakaway goal and a 2-0 St. Louis lead with 24 seconds left in the first period.
“It was more of a message goal,” Oshie said. “That was a questionable play by them that got the whole thing started.”