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Blues lose fourth in row, first place, Oshie to injury

by Dan Myers

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The St. Louis Blues are slumping at the wrong time. They might have to break out of it without forward T.J. Oshie.

The Blues were defeated by the Minnesota Wild 4-2 Thursday at Xcel Energy Center, and with the Stanley Cup Playoffs on the horizon, St. Louis lost not only a top player but, for now, first place in the Central Division.

With the Blues trailing 1-0 near the midway point of the game, Oshie gained control of the puck behind the net in the offensive zone. He skated along the boards to near the half-wall, where he was hit up high by Wild forward Mike Rupp.

Oshie lay face-first on the ice before trying to get to his feet. He fell on his first try but was able to get off the ice and down the tunnel to the locker room on his own.

Rupp, playing his first game since Feb. 1, was assessed a match penalty at 9:30. Oshie, who entered Thursday tied with Alexander Steen for the Blues lead with 60 points, did not return to the game.

"Obviously, we didn't like the hit. He's an important player for our team," Blues forward Jaden Schwartz said.

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock did not have an update on Oshie, saying he was day-to-day.

"Certainly, it's a tough hit to take right now," Hitchcock said.

The loss was St. Louis' fourth in a row and the Blues lost their grip on first place in the Central. The Colorado Avalanche defeated the Vancouver Canucks 4-2 to move into the top spot.

Colorado and St. Louis each have a 52-21-7 record for 111 points, but the Avalanche have more regulation and overtime wins (47-43).

With Minnesota having clinched the top wild-card spot in the Western Conference, the Wild scratched defenseman Jared Spurgeon and forwards Stephane Veilleux and Justin Fontaine. They started 5-foot-11 goaltender John Curry, who made 43 saves for his first NHL win since Dec. 11, 2008.

Curry hadn't played in an NHL game since Jan. 10, 2010, when he was a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins. In that game, he allowed five goals on 14 shots before being pulled. Since then, Curry has bounced around the American Hockey League and the ECHL.

Curry, a native of Shorewood, Minn., became the fifth Wild goalie to play this season. His parents, girlfriend and several family friends were in attendance.

"That's why I put so much pressure on myself. I was obviously very thankful to get the opportunity, no matter how it went," Curry said. "But I knew that, just based on my career, you don't get many of these. So it's good to have success and play well when you get the chance."

Minnesota, 6-0-1 in its past seven games, has 98 points and could reach 100 for the second time with a win in its regular-season finale Sunday against the Nashville Predators.

"This is a funny game. Let's be honest, they outplayed us tonight," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "I'm not saying that we didn't do some things well. But we spent a majority of the night in our defensive zone."

The Wild got two goals from forward Kyle Brodziak, who might lead the team in quality scoring chances missed this season. A 22-goal scorer in 2011-12, Brodziak has struggled to finish all season. His second period shorthanded goal was his first goal since March 8. He scored a power-play goal 58 seconds into the third period, his eighth goal of the season and first multigoal game since last April 16.

"The chances were coming," Brodziak said. "Tonight, I was fortunate enough to get a couple of good bounces and be able to put them in."

Wild defenseman Christian Folin, making his NHL debut, had the primary assist on Brodziak's third-period goal, taking a shot from the point that bounced off the end wall right to Brodziak at the left post.

Folin signed with the Wild on March 31 following his sophomore season at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell. He finished his first NHL game a plus-3.

Blues goaltender Ryan Miller was pulled three minutes after Brodziak scored; he allowed four goals on 13 shots.

"Not the cleanest game we were hoping to play right now," Miller said. "We have to find ways to battle through. It's been a little bit of a struggle in the last little while."

Minnesota's Nino Niederreiter scored his 14th of the season with 5:58 left in the first period, giving the Wild a 1-0 lead despite a 17-5 period disadvantage on the shot chart.

Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk took advantage of Rupp's penalty, scoring 35 seconds into a 5-on-3 power play and tying the game 1-1.

Brodziak's goal followed a little more than a minute later.

"That was tough," Hitchcock said. "To be dominating that much and give up a weak goal like that getting caught out of position, I think that gave them a little bit of momentum."

Schwartz tied the game 2-2 with a shorthanded goal, capping a 2-on-1 by one-timing a pass from Steen past Curry for his 25th of the season.

Seconds after that power play expired, the Wild worked the puck along the left wall to Dany Heatley in the corner. He fed open Matt Moulson near the right post for the tap-in, It was Moulson's 23rd of the season and sixth since coming to the Wild in a trade from the Buffalo Sabres prior to the NHL Trade Deadline.

St. Louis finished the game with a 45-15 edge in shots. Miller, asked if he could sense any frustration inside the dressing room, went one step further.

"No," he said. "I can feel it."

The Blues, who trail the Anaheim Ducks by one point for the top seed in the Western Conference, play Friday at the Dallas Stars. St. Louis ends the regular season at home Sunday against the Detroit Red Wings.

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