ST. LOUIS – Coming off a blowout win over the Pittsburgh Penguins and opening a five-game road trip against the rival St. Louis Blues, the Wild desperately wanted to get on a roll Saturday night after treading water for much of November.
Coach Bruce Boudreau came back with No. 1 goalie Devan Dubnyk for a second consecutive night, and for two periods things were looking good as Dubnyk stopped 27 of 28 shots and the Wild carried a lead into the third period.
But in a 63-second span, Jaden Schwartz scored twice, and suddenly it was the Wild playing catchup. For that reason, the Wild will gladly take one point and move on after a 4-3 shootout loss at Scottrade Center.
With Dubnyk off for an extra attacker, Charlie Coyle buried Eric Staal’s feed from behind the net with 68 seconds left to force overtime. Coincidentally, it was Staal bemoaning recently that the Wild had gone scoreless on seven 6-on-5 opportunities this season totaling 9 minutes, 11 seconds.
“Third period, they battled back, they weren’t just going to sit back, so for us to do the same and get that equalizer, that’s huge,” Coyle said.
After a back-and-forth overtime that saw Jake Allen stop four shots, Coyle, Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu and Mikael Granlund were shut out in the shootout. David Perron, who assisted on two goals in regulation, scored St. Louis’ lone shootout tally in the fourth round as the Blues remained in second place in the Central Division — two points ahead of Minnesota.
With the help of Granlund and Jason Zucker, Koivu gave the Wild a 1-0, first-period lead. But after the Wild failed to extend its lead on back-to-back second-period power plays, Paul Stastny tied the score 2:10 after the Blues’ second kill.
But the Nino Niederreiter-Haula-Jason Pominville trio answered 2:02 later for the go-ahead goal when Haula pounced on a Pominville setup.
But the Blues rallied. Schwartz’s first goal came off one heck of a deflection on a Perron shot heading wide. Schwartz later backhanded another shot through traffic after Marco Scandella’s second penalty of the game.
The Wild didn’t quit, though. “We wish we would’ve played the way we played after they got the lead, when we had the lead,” Haula said.
Added Boudreau: “It was negative the way we started the third period. We looked very tentative. But it was positive the way, after they scored their [third] goal, I thought we took the play to them.”
Boudreau’s long philosophy has been “win the week.” By that standard, the Wild took six out of eight possible points by picking up points against Dallas, Winnipeg, Pittsburgh and St. Louis.
Still, the Wild hasn’t won three in a row since shutting out three consecutive opponents Oct. 25-29.
“I think we’re playing good hockey, but just not winning eight in a row,” Boudreau said. “I’d like to be able to put something together. We’re 2-0-2 in the last four, and that’s the start.”
In the super-tight Central Division, the Wild, Blues, Stars and Predators were all separated by two points entering Saturday’s play. Other than Chicago, it seems no team can just get on a roll.
“We’re all racing like crazy to get to the ‘A’ game, and you think you got it and then you don’t have it,” St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock said. “To me, whoever is going to get those [top] three spots are the teams that get to that ‘A’ game quickest and stay there.”
The Wild hopes to find its “A” game as it now heads to western Canada. The team has gotten great goaltending, and suddenly, it has scored 12 goals in the past three games.
“Obviously we don’t like to give up a lead in the third period, but we got a point on a tough week and a in tough building, so we’ll take that right now,” Boudreau said.