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Tarasenko helps Blues in win against Wild

by Dan Myers /

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Vladimir Tarasenko has a knack for scoring goals. Perhaps more importantly for the St. Louis Blues, he has a knack for scoring big goals.

Tarasenko scored the first goal of the game Saturday against the Minnesota Wild, and then added the shootout winner to give St. Louis a 3-2 victory at Xcel Energy Center.

After Blues goaltender Jake Allen stopped Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu and Jason Pominville, Tarasenko put a snap shot past Wild goaltender Niklas Backstrom in the third round of the shootout for his second game-deciding goal this season.

"Big moments. There's scoring goals and there's big moments," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "He came through in the big moment for us. It was good to see."

The Blues got to the shootout thanks to a relentless third period. Minnesota held a 27-12 advantage in shots after 40 minutes, but was unable to stretch its lead after St. Louis defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk was assessed a major penalty and game misconduct for checking from behind late in the second period.

The Wild scored once during Shattenkirk's five-minute penalty to grab a 2-1 lead, but they were unable to get the separation goal.

After the major expired in the opening minute of the third, St. Louis' momentum slowly built throughout the third. The Blues finally capitalized with 5:33 remaining in regulation, taking advantage of a Ryan Suter miscue in the Wild zone. The defenseman failed to clear the puck and turned it over to Patrik Berglund at the blue line. Berglund chipped a pass to David Backes, who tucked a shot under the crossbar for his seventh.

"The momentum was building for that tying goal for us," Hitchcock said. "We felt like we were going to score. They looked tired. They couldn't stretch the lead far enough when they had the power play, and that allowed us to stay in the hockey game."

Backes said the rally was keyed by St. Louis' role players doing the little things. Needing a boost playing the second half of a back-to-back set, Backes said the Blues got it from the lesser-known players on their roster over the final 20-plus minutes.

"It's tough to score two or three goals when you've only got 12 shots," Backes said. "We had to find a push. We found a push. Ryan Reaves was great, going in there and getting some hits and giving us some energy. Chris Porter, a guy who hasn't played in a while, tons of energy for us getting in on the forecheck and getting us some O-zone time. You get contributions from guys like that that give you a ton of energy and the rest of us have no choice but to try and match their level."

The Blues pushed in the final minutes of regulation and in overtime, nearly winning the game on several occasions before reaching the shootout. Fortunately for the Wild, Backstrom was able to make big saves when they needed him, stopping 24 shots in all, including nine in the third period and four more in overtime.

"Wish we could have gotten him a win. A little unfortunate because I thought he played a real strong game," Minnesota coach Mike Yeo said. "I thought he was standing tall in there all night."

Allen was fantastic on the other end, making 10 saves in the first period and 15 more in the second. He stopped all 11 shots in the third and three in the shootout to earn his eighth victory. It was the first time this season Allen has started on back-to-back nights; the Blues defeated the Edmonton Oilers 4-3 on Friday.

"I thought after two games, our goalie kept the game where we needed it to be," Hitchcock said. "We found a way to win points. It's hard to win a game in this building."

Tarasenko scored his 14th goal 10:20 into the second period to give St. Louis the lead. After the Wild failed on three tries to get the puck out of their zone, Tarasenko gained control near the right wall at the blue line. He coasted through the slot to the left circle, waiting out Backstrom and shooting past the sprawled goaltender.

"It's instinct," Tarasenko said. "You don't think about it in a game, you just kind of do it."

Minnesota tied the score 4:26 later when Charlie Coyle won a puck battle in the right corner and pushed the puck to Jason Zucker. His centering pass found wide-open Koivu near the right faceoff dot. The captain's short-side snap shot beat Allen for third goal, first since Oct. 30.

Shattenkirk was ejected less than two minutes later, and with 59 seconds remaining in the period, Parise scored from the top of the left circle through traffic in front of Allen. The goal was Parise's ninth overall but first on the power play. It was also his 250th goal in the NHL.

"It was a game I think we felt like we deserved to win," Parise said. "I thought we played pretty good for the full game and didn't really give them much, had a lot of extended shifts in their zone. You try and get that other [goal] to make it a two-goal lead, and we couldn't."

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