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Haula, Niederreiter, Fontaine lift Wild past Blues

by Louie Korac /

ST. LOUIS -- Erik Haula scored the tie-breaking goal with 8:32 remaining to give the Minnesota Wild a 3-1 victory against the St. Louis Blues at Scottrade Center on Thursday.

Nino Niederreiter had a goal and an assist, and Justin Fontaine had two assists playing with Haula, who also had an assist, on the Wild’s third line. Thomas Vanek scored into an empty net, and Devan Dubnyk made 33 saves for Minnesota (20-10-6), which began a four-game trip.

"It is always nice when you get a road trip like this to get the first one," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "Devan was great all night and our defensemen played well in front of him."

Kevin Shattenkirk scored for St. Louis (23-13-4), and Jake Allen made 26 saves. The Blues lost for the first time this season when tied after two periods (8-1-0).

Each team played without its top forward. Left wing Zach Parise (lower body) sat out for Minnesota; right wing Vladimir Tarasenko (illness) was a late scratch for St. Louis.

Haula, who didn't have a point in 15 games, picked up a loose puck at the side of the net and threw it toward the goal through Allen to give the Wild a 2-1 lead.

"It's great to get the feeling of what it is like to win on the road," Dubnyk said. "We stayed in the game, waited for the big goal. It was perfect."

It was Haula’s first goal in 18 games, since Nov. 10 against the Winnipeg Jets.

"I was trying to pass it across to Fontaine, but it just wasn't there," he said. "So I kind of feathered it in there. Luckily, it went in."

Allen said, "Not a good goal by me there. I lost [the puck] behind the net and didn't know where it was. [Haula] banked it off me."

Blues defenseman Robert Bortuzzo and Niederreiter battled behind the net, and the puck eventually went to Haula for his bad-angle shot.

"We got beat on the end boards twice," St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We won the faceoff and got beat twice on the end boards. I don't think it was fluky. Bad timing to get beat like that.

"Also, we're living on the fine line of scoring one goal, and it wasn't 5-on-5 either. We just can't keep living on the fine line that we're living on right now scoring one and two goals and still getting points. Today was a game where we had a great start, probably from five minutes left in the first period, the balance of the game was probably even. We were better the first 15 minutes, but if you're playing even or a little bit better, you've got to get points. But it's hard living with one goal."

Vanek scored with 1:37 remaining.

Shattenkirk scored moments after the Blues had a two-man advantage. His wrist shot from the left circle beat Dubnyk top-shelf, far-side 8:42 into the second period for a 1-0 lead. It was Shattenkirk's 23rd point (seventh goal) in his past 24 games.

"We had some good pushes there, some good moments," Shattenkirk said. "We got some good scoring chances, we got a lot of shots on [Dubnyk], but he's so big (6-foot-6). He gets down and lets his body block them. We've just got to find a few rebounds and put them in.

"It's a tough one to lose, especially that late in the game. I thought we were playing some good hockey, especially in the third."

The Wild tied it 1-1 with 3:48 left in the second period on Niederreiter's fifth point in five games (second goal) after he followed up Fontaine's shot. Allen steered the rebound to the far side but right to Niederreiter.

"It's important to get out there and end the year right; 2015 was a solid year and we made sure it ended on a good note," Niederreiter said.

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