ST. LOUIS – Having just rattled off five straight victories, the Wild was far from a footnote in the NHL when it set out on a franchise-record seven consecutive road games last month.
But after a solid 5-2 showing during the stretch, its profile is on the rise — especially since the team’s performance was rewarded with a hefty boost up the standings.
“We want to create as much separation as we can,” winger Zach Parise said.
The Wild bolstered its spot among league leaders by capping off its historic jaunt with a 3-2 win over the Blues in front of 16,735 Sunday at Enterprise Center, the team’s 10th victory in its past 12 games.
At 11-4-2, the Wild sits second in the Western Conference and third in the NHL. Its 24 points are the most in franchise history through 17 games.
What made the result against St. Louis even more impressive was it looked like the Wild was wrapping up a lengthy trip. The team wasn’t as fresh as it’d been in previous efforts — a sleepy vibe befitting matinee hockey. But the team’s perseverance was appropriate since that’s what helped make the trek a successful one.
“It says that they’ve got a lot of character and they wanted to win,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “You could tell there wasn’t a lot of energy out there. We didn’t have a lot of push in their zone. [But] we were pretty opportunistic when we had to be.”
Winger Mikael Granlund delivered the decisive goal 7 minutes, 43 seconds into the third period, breaking a 2-2 tie when he pounced on a loose puck in the slot and wired his team-leading 10th goal top-shelf past Blues goalie Chad Johnson, who made 15 saves.
The goal was Granlund’s third in his past two games, and nine of his team-best 18 points came on this road swing.
“We got a good turnover there,” Granlund said. “Just went there and tried to put it in, and I guess pucks are really going in right now.”
Although the outcome was the same as what the Wild earned when it visited St. Louis last Saturday, this was a much more competitive Blues squad than the one that was drubbed 5-1.
The Blues tested goalie Devan Dubnyk early on the power play — both teams went 0-for-2 — and managed to exit the first period with a lead when winger Oskar Sundqvist one-timed the puck past Dubnyk at 19:01.
Two goals 25 seconds apart in the second period flipped the advantage; after a Nino Niederreiter shot rang off the post, winger Zach Parise buried the rebound at 1:19 with a spinning shot for his seventh goal.
“We got a pretty fortunate bounce onto my stick,” Parise said. “Just trying to throw it in there and see what happens. I just beat him back to the post.
And then at 1:44, center Joel Eriksson Ek scored his first goal of the season when he banked in the rebound off a Jordan Greenway attempt.
St. Louis tied it at 9:37 on a slap shot from defenseman Alex Pietrangelo off the rush and went on to outshoot the Wild 12-4 in the third, but Granlund was the only one to score in the period, sealing the franchise record for most wins on a road trip.
“Sometimes it can get away from you a little bit when you’re on long trips and the time changes and all that,” said Dubnyk, who racked up 29 saves. “To be able to come out of a seven-game road trip 5-2 is a pretty good feeling for us.”