The Minnesota Wild
and St. Louis Blues
continue to head in opposite directions.
The Wild completed a home-and-home sweep by beating the Blues 3-1 at the Xcel Energy Center on Saturday night. The win, combined with Calgary's 4-2 loss at Vancouver, moved Minnesota into eighth place in the West.
Minnesota improved to 9-2 in its last 11 games, with seven of those victories in regulation. The Wild are 17-7-1 in their past 25 games.
"I think there's another level of confidence right now with our group, figuring out the identity of our team and how we need to play," coach Todd Richards said.
Meanwhile, the slumping Blues remained in 13th place -- they trail the Wild by eight points in the race for the final playoff berth. St. Louis is just 3-5-3 in its last 11 games.
Two games in two nights led to plenty of animosity on both sides.
"We've shown that we're able to defend against speed and we're able to match speed with speed," said Cal Clutterbuck, the NHL leader in hits who is also tops on the team after scoring his career-high 17th goal.
"This one was pretty rough," Clutterbuck said after the teams combined for 74 penalty minutes. "We expect that from these guys, especially, but we responded. I think that's the biggest thing."
The Blues were outshot 12-5 in the first period, and the Wild controlled the pace, flow and the direction of the game, except for a five-minute surge by St. Louis started by Patrik Berglund's power-play goal late in the second period. That stopped a streak of 17 straight penalties killed by the Wild.
"Obviously we came away with a result we're not happy with, but it was an old-school battle," said Blues center T.J. Oshie, adding: "It's fun to play in that atmosphere, guys running around hitting. They just got the best of us these two."
The feisty play continued past the final horn as one final fight broke out around the net. Blues forward David Backes and Minnesota's Clayton Stoner dropped the gloves, each getting fighting majors and game misconducts.
"He was agitating all game," Stoner said. "Good for him. He was playing hard, but at the same time we've got stand up for ourselves and I think we did a good job throughout the whole game."
It wasn't a good night for Blues goalie Jaroslav Halak, who was pulled for Ty Conklin midway through the second period after Kyle Brodziak's goal made it 3-0. Antti Miettinen had a power-play goal for the Wild in the second period after muscling the puck away from Roman Polak on the backboards and one-timing a feed from Andrew Brunette.
Blues defenseman Eric Johnson absolved Halak of any blame for the loss.
"Any time you're taken out, as a player you're going to be angry and upset," Johnson said, "but we weren't very good in front of him and didn't give him much of a chance. It's not his fault at all."
Niklas Backstrom made 24 saves as he continued his superb play since returning from a hip injury. He has allowed only 10 goals in his last seven starts.
"Guys are playing great defensively," defenseman Cam Barker said. "I think we're keeping it to the outside. Goalies are seeing all the pucks, and obviously the goalies are playing well too."
The Blues haven't been the same since their 9-2-1 start was derailed by a rash of injuries. Oshie's return ahead of schedule from a broken left ankle last month was a big lift, and the recent return of Andy McDonald from a concussion has helped -- but they're in danger of falling too far behind to make a run.
"We have to understand that success comes from that collective five-man effort," coach Davis Payne said. "This is not the time of year where you can have any guys off."
Material from team media and wire services was used in this report