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Five Takeaways From Wild Vs. Blues

by Evan Sporer / Minnesota Wild

Following Wild games, Content Coordinator Evan Sporer will give the Five Takeaways that he remembers from the contest. Tonight, he looks back at the Wild's 4-2 loss against the St. Louis Blues at Xcel Energy Center.

FIRST TAKEAWAY

Say what you will about the Wild, but it fought and worked its tails off on Sunday, and wasn't just content to lay down on its home ice.

Consider the scenario the Wild faced, playing its second game in as many days, its third in four, and its eighth in the past 13.

Yet somehow, the Wild looked stronger as the game dragged on. It took Minnesota 6:44 in the first period to register its first shot, during which time St. Louis took six.

But Ryan Suter and Matt Dumba each scored in a third period that the Wild came dangerously close to evening the score in. Not easy to come back when trailing 3-0, but short of finding an equalizer, the Wild did about everything else it could to climb all the way back against the Blues.

"We made a great push in the third, but we can’t let it get to that point," Dumba said. "We kind of put ourselves behind the eight-ball early."

Also consider that the Blues have been off since Tuesday. St. Louis, in addition to being a very good team, has also been a thorn in home teams' sides, earning at least a point in 11 of its past 13 road games entering Sunday at 8-2-3.

"It shows we want it; we want it bad," Dumba said. "A lot of disappointed faces here in the locker room after because we were working hard. It sucks that we didn’t get some bounces tonight, but we kind of did it to ourselves, kind of shot ourselves in the foot. We’ll try not to do that Thursday."

There's a certain intensity that comes with Central Division games, and it's not lessened when these two teams, who met in the Stanley Cup Playoffs a year ago, come up against each other on the schedule.

Maybe it was that, or the pride factor, or simply that the Wild is winning more frequently of late, but the Wild certainly poured a lot into that third period when the circumstance called for it to do the opposite.

"You learn from losses, that's for sure, but you certainly learned about our character," interim Head Coach John Torchetti said. "Our fans knew that we really worked hard down the end, and we were disappointed we were down 3-0 for them, and we did a good job coming back."

SECOND TAKEAWAY

The Wild's penalty kill looked very different on Sunday, and that's from both a personnel and product standpoint.

While the defensemen were the same, up front, Zach Parise and Charlie Coyle took a shift together, Ryan Carter was with Jason Zucker, and Chris Porter was with Mikael Granlund.

Forward Erik Haula was in the box, and likely would have been out there had he not been, but those were still a lot of new faces.

The result was a pressure-filled neutral zone that didn't afford the Blues the opportunity to enter the zone cleanly or easily.

"Using Zach and Zach's speed maybe backed them off, so now they're a little bit leery, and he did a fantastic job," Torchetti said. "So did [Granlund], so did [Coyle], so did [Porter], and it's something that we're going to keep improving on, and now the guys are going to have to pull the rope a little bit harder, and tighten up. We'll get it straightened out."

A fast team, using its speed on the penalty kill when applicable is certainly one way for the Wild to, quite literally, attack the penalty kill.

"It's funny how things like that go," Carter said. "The PK, it seems like everything is going in. At some point, they just stop going in. It seems like everything is, and they stop, and you get a bounce here or there, and things go your way. You get a good kill, and you go from there. Hopefully that's what today is: It's a good kill, and you move forward."

THIRD TAKEAWAY

Sticking with special teams, the Wild's power play, which has been the reason the Minnesota won some games recently, went 0-for-4 against St. Louis.

The Wild had talked recently about how the power play had been the catalyst for victories, but that the Wild couldn't rely on it to do so every night.

And the power play wasn't off on Sunday insofar as it generated quality chances, good looks, and came close to scoring.

Most night, the kinds of things the power play accomplished end in goals. But the power play isn't going to score every night, which is why the Wild had its guard so that, when it didn't, the rest of its game would pick up the slack.

FOURTH TAKEAWAY

A day after the Minnesota High School State tournament concluded at Xcel Energy Center, some of the state's youth got to hang around when the arena's NHL team returned.

Riley Tufte of Blaine, who was named Mr. Hockey on Sunday, and Nick Althaus of St. Cloud Apollo, the state's top senior goaltender, each were on hand to announce the "Let's Play Hockey" call prior to the Wild taking on the Blues.

Positioned 17th among North American skaters in the latest ISS Rankings, Tufte is the highest-ranked high school player in the midterm report. He led the metro area in this his senior season with 49 goals, which he compiled in 27 games.

The 6-foot-5, 17-year-old looks the part of a budding NHL prospect: Tall and lanky, and ready to fill out that frame when he takes his collegiate career to the University of Minnesota Duluth.

Althaus had a 1.47 goals-against average in 25 regular season games this season to go along with a .930 save percentage. On the season, he went 22-3-0 with eight shutouts.

FIFTH TAKEAWAY

On a night when a former Wild iron man was in the building, a current Minnesota skater matched his streak.

Forward Jason Pominvile played in his 231st consecutive game on Sunday, tying former Wild and current Blues forward Kyle Brodziak for the longest such streak in franchise history.

Pominville has been one of the Wild's hottest forwards of late, playing on an equally hot line with Erik Haula and Nino Niedereiter. On Saturday, Pominville scored the shootout-clinching goal in the fourth round against the Sabres to help the Wild win its fourth straight game.

Playing the first eight-plus seasons of his career in Buffalo, Pominville has seven times in his career played in all 82 games on the NHL schedule.

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