ST. LOUIS – It was an unconventional approach for the Wild, scoring first and then extending that lead.
But it worked.
Used to chasing the opposition, the team ditched rally mode for cruise control after settling into the driver’s seat early en route to steamrolling the Blues 5-1 Saturday in front of an announced 17,767 at Enterprise Center — the Wild’s seventh win in its past eight games.
“It was different,” coach Bruce Boudreau said, “but it was nice, and to continue doing it through three periods was nicer.”
Nine different players contributed to the offense. Rookie defenseman Nick Seeler scored his first career goal as part of a three-point effort and winger Mikael Granlund pushed his point streak to 10 games in the team’s most complete showing to date.
Goalie Devan Dubnyk made 15 saves on a season-low 16 shots against.
“From start to finish, we just kept going,” said Greg Pateryn, who was a plus-5 — tying the franchise record for a defenseman. “In the second and third when we were expecting them to push, any time they started to get something going, we just shut it down right away. That’s how you play good hockey.”
This was only the fourth time the Wild capitalized first and although most of its points have come from comebacks (6-2-1), playing with a cushion certainly seems more conducive to long-term success.
Center Eric Staal set the tone with his 400th career goal 4 minutes, 42 seconds after puck drop when he deflected in a Seeler shot with his back to the net. Staal became the sixth active player and 96th all-time to reach the milestone; he has six points in his past four games.
“I’ve been the beneficiary of a lot of great plays,” Staal said, “and hopefully there’s a lot more yet.”
Only 45 seconds later, with the same crew on the ice, the Wild secured its first two-goal, first-period lead of the season when Seeler’s one-timer banked off the post and behind Blues goalie Jake Allen.
Seeler became the 10th player in Wild history to have his first career goal double as the game-winner.
“It was exciting,” he said. “I was just trying to get more pucks to the net and create more offense.”
St. Louis cut its deficit in half on the power play later in the frame; center Ryan O’Reilly flung a shot by Dubnyk from the left faceoff circle at 11:32. That was the Blues’ lone look with the man advantage, while the Wild went 0-for-4.
But the team reinstated its two-goal edge before the period ended at 18:09 on winger J.T. Brown’s first goal as a member of the Wild— a top-shelf finish off a breakaway put in motion after center Eric Fehr forced a neutral-zone turnover.
“We want to be right on them to take away time and space,” Fehr said. “That one worked out really well for us.”
The Wild didn’t let up in the second, and with 4:28 to go in the period it pulled even further away from the Blues.
After accepting a Granlund pass, defenseman Matt Dumba’s shot trickled through Allen. With the assist, Granlund has 13 points during his 10-game point streak.
And at 9:15 of the third, the Wild added one more insurance tally — this one from Fehr, who buried a loose puck in front as he was falling to the ice to cap off a four-point night for the fourth line. Allen totaled 40 saves for the Blues.
“It was obviously a full effort, a full 60 [minutes],” Staal said, “and we got the lead and said we were never going to relinquish it.”