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Belanger records goal, assist to help Wild beat Blues 3-1, stay undefeated @NHLdotcom

ST. LOUIS - Although his team's power play had generated only one goal in 22 chances coming into Saturday's game in St. Louis, Minnesota Wild centre Eric Belanger felt the unit was on the right track.

"I know our power play was moving the puck well," Belanger said. "It was just a matter of time before we scored."

The Wild scored twice with the man advantage Saturday night and that was the difference. Belanger assisted on the first of those power-play goals and added an even strength goal himself as the Wild remained the NHL's only unbeaten team by beating the Blues 3-1.

Josh Harding made 33 saves for Minnesota. Brent Burns and Pavol Demitra also scored and Pierre-Marc Bouchard had two assists for the Wild (6-0-1), who have won six of their first seven despite not scoring more than three goals in any game. The only blemish was an overtime loss in Los Angeles on Tuesday.

Steve Wagner scored his first NHL goal for St. Louis' only tally, and the Blues had its four-game winning streak snapped. Martin Rucinsky also had a milestone on that goal, picking up an assist for his 600th career point.

Manny Legace made 31 saves for the Blues.

"We knew it was going to be a tough game," Legace said. "That's a great club over there and their goaltender played outstanding."

Harding got his second start, and was just glad for the chance.

"I'm glad to contribute any time I get the call," he said. "I've got to take advantage of my opportunities."

He was helped by the Wild power play, which scored twice as many goals Saturday as it had in the first six games.

"We moved the puck, and we had good chances," Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire said. "This is a team that pressures a lot, and if you do move the puck quickly, you're going to get a good chance."

The Wild took advantage of a double minor penalty for high sticking against the Blues' Lee Stempniak to draw first blood midway through the second period. With Stempniak off, Kim Johnsson got the puck off a faceoff in the Blues end and centred down low to Belanger. He fed a quick pass to Demitra in the slot, and Demitra beat Legace with a snap shot from the right circle with 7:07 remaining in the period.

It appeared that the Blues would take momentum into the second intermission when Wagner led a rush into the Wild zone and surprised Harding with a shot from the top of the left circle. Harding, who stopped all 37 shots he faced in his only other game, beating Anaheim on Oct. 14, got a piece of it but it trickled home to tie the game with 49 seconds to play in the period.

But Belanger gave the Wild their lead back when he converted Bouchard's centring pass with 11 seconds to go in the second.

"Well, after you give up a goal, you always want a good shift," Belanger said. "Fortunately, we got a goal. I came off the bench, and I stopped in the slot and let her rip."

Burns gave the Wild some insurance when he scored another power-play goal with 11:39 remaining.

Notes: Lemaire used four forwards on the power play and it paid off with two goals. ... Paul Kariya had his five game scoring streak snapped. ... The Blues lost at home for the first time this season after two wins. St. Louis has not won its first three at home since 2000-01, when the team won its first six.

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