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Staal makes sure fans' hats don't go to waste

Scoring change, ensuing confusion meant traditional headwear toss came one goal too early

by Dan Myers @DanMyers / Wild.com

ST. PAUL -- Apparently, several dozen fans in attendance on Tuesday at Xcel Energy Center never caught wind of the scoring change.

The confusion began in the first period, when Eric Staal was credited with the Wild's third goal of the game just past the midway point of the frame. 

Staal scored his "second" of the night at 8:19 of the second period. 

A few moments later, it was announced that his first-period goal was being changed to Mikael Granlund, who got a late stick on the puck just before it crossed the goal line.

Imagine the confusion for the 19,261 -- the largest crowd of the season -- when Staal scored again on a breakaway 7:46 into the third period. 

Hats rained down from all levels of the area, littering the ice below. 

There was just one problem.

"That's not a hat trick," Staal said to teammate Jason Zucker, as the two waited on the bench for the ice crew to retrieve the headwear.

Staal knew it. Zucker knew it. Granlund knew it. 

But forgive the fans for not taking notice, not with Minnesota scoring a franchise-record-tying eight goals in an 8-3 win against the rival St. Louis Blues. At that particular moment, a scoring change wasn't the first thing on their minds.

"Once the hats started coming, I was like, 'uh oh.' I knew it wasn't a hat trick because Granny told me he touched that one before it went in," Staal said. "I celebrated a good assist on that one. But that's ok. It was one of those nights. It was fun."

Video: STL@MIN: Staal nets breakaway goal for second of game

Turns out, those fans weren't cheated after all. They were just a little early.

Three minutes after an initial barrage of hats hit the ice, a bunch more came down when Staal scored again, completing his hat trick ... for real this time.

"We'd figure we'd try to get him another," Zucker said.

And he did. Midway through the third period, with Staal sitting on two goals, Zucker found him with the puck and a wide open net. His first shot hit the left post and came back to him. His second shot hit the right post and came back to him.

His third shot? Bullseye.

Video: STL@MIN: Staal buries own rebound to notch hat trick

"When you get the empty net there by Zucks, you want to put it in the first try," Staal said with a smile. "It was one of those nights, it just kind of summed it up, I think that's why there was a chuckle after it. It was just one of those nights ... the puck was following us around. We were feeling it."

"Feeling it" might be an understatement.

Staal's hat trick was the 14th of his NHL career and first in five years. The reigning NHL First Star of the Week now has 33 goals, fourth-most in the League. Staal also assisted on two other goals Tuesday for his fifth career five-point game.

Video: STL@MIN: Staal slams home rebound for a PPG

But he was hardly alone.

Zucker also had a five-point night, scoring once and assisting on four others. Granlund scored two goals and had two assists. 

That line as a whole accounted for six goals and eight assists on the night. Since they were assembled three games ago against the New York Rangers, the group has 11 goals and 15 assists. 

"It's hard to really explain," Staal said. "We just want to keep it. When you have that going, you want to bottle it and keep it going as long as you can."

In tallying five points, Staal and Zucker became the third and fourth players in team history to accomplish the feat, something that had been done just four times prior (Marian Gaborik three times, Mikko Koivu once). 

"We're just trying to pressure and skate, and pressure their [defensemen] when we can, get pucks to the net and when there's time to make plays, we're trying to do that as well," Zucker said. "Right now, it just seems to be working."

Minnesota has now won five straight games for the first time this season and put the Blues seven points behind it in the Central Division standings.

The Wild has inched to within four points of the Winnipeg Jets for second place in the Central, while maintaining a three-point cushion on the Dallas Stars. 

"This is the time. Our schedule gets an awful lot more difficult when March rolls around," Boudreau said. "We played these guys the first game after the trade deadline last year and lost 2-1 and then went on the road for about five games. That sort of started our bad month. We didn't want that to happen this time around."

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