Since reserving a seat at the playoff table a week ago, the Wild hasn't looked the same. It has dropped two in a row on home ice, a rarity this season, and come up short in a playofflike atmosphere against the Blues.
St. Louis is a desperate opponent, and the Blues play the physical, tight-checking brand of hockey that takes over after the regular season.
Although the Wild has yet to pass that test, there's still time to bounce back, starting Saturday when this three-game series against St. Louis at Xcel Energy Center concludes.
"We're right where we need to be," defenseman Matt Dumba said. "Clinched a playoff spot and just working the kinks out of our game so we're ready come playoffs. It's all preparation for that now."
While the Wild hasn't assembled a complete game in consecutive losses to the Blues, the team has had bursts of strong play.
Before collapsing in the third period on Wednesday and fading to a 4-3 loss, the Wild was cruising through the first and second, twice establishing two-goal leads and capitalizing on the forecheck-focused grind that's necessary to prevail when time and space start to shrink as games get more meaningful.
Credit the Jordan Greenway, Joel Eriksson Ek and Marcus Foligno line for reinforcing that style. The three were responsible for all off the Wild's offense that game, scoring twice and assisting on the other. They finished their checks, a blueprint for how to stand up to gritty teams like the Blues.
"We've done a lot of good things," Greenway said. "Physically, we've been dominant. We wear on teams. We wear them down."
That line was also involved Thursday, but this time its impact came while the Wild was playing catch-up.
After tripping into a three-goal hole, the Wild finally picked up its pace in the third period. The team buried three goals to force overtime, but St. Louis captain Ryan O'Reilly's breakaway finish sealed a 5-4 victory for the Blues.
Kevin Fiala and Victor Rask helped the Wild close the gap in the third, combining on two goals before Fiala set up rookie Kirill Kaprizov for the equalizer.
"We had nothing to lose," Greenway said. "I think we've got to start having that push from the drop of the puck, make teams be on their heels and just go after them. I think if we do that right from the drop of the puck, it'd be hard to beat us."
Through five games this season, the Wild has won just once against the Blues.
The Wild has fared much better against Vegas (4-1-1) and Anaheim (5-1-1), the teams on deck for the rest of this homestand.
But this matchup with St. Louis might be some of the best prep work the Wild can get before the playoffs because of the challenge the Blues present.
And they'll be the last tuneup the Wild gets; the team wraps up the regular season with back-to-back games in St. Louis.
"They're a team that works hard," Dumba said. "They've got great sticks. They get in a lot of passing lanes and make it difficult on you from that aspect. They do a lot of similar things that we do to teams. It's a hard matchup, and I think this is good for us going into playoffs."