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Postgame Hat Trick: Wild 5, Blues 1

Minnesota scores two goals in both the second and third periods, wins final game before All-Star break

by Dan Myers @1DanMyers / Wild.com

Dan Myers gives three takeaways from the Wild's 5-1 victory against the St. Louis Blues at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul on Thursday night:

1. The victory wrapped up a nice first half of the season for the Wild, which enters the All-Star break with 69 points.

"I thought that was our most complete game in a long time," said Wild coach Bruce Boudreau. "I thought from [goaltender Devan Dubnyk] on out, we were pretty good tonight."

While the Wild surpassed the official halfway point of the season earlier this month, the virtual halfway point of the season is upon us and Minnesota is in its best position in franchise history.

Consider, the Wild reached 69 points in 48 games, besting the previous pace by 12 (!) games, when Minnesota was 31-21-7 at the All-Star break in 2013-14. 

"It's been a lot of fun," said Wild forward Nino Niederreiter. "I personally haven't been in a situation like that in a long time. It's great. It's fun to be in the hunted seed here."

Video: Locker Room Postgame vs St. Louis

The Wild leads the Western Conference in points, wins (32), goals (160), goals against (109) and goal differential (plus-51), among others and maintains a four-point lead in the Central Division (and the conference) over Chicago while also possessing three games in hand.

2. Mikko Koivu was rewarded for his fantastic play all night with a timely second-period goal to make it 3-1. 

Koivu, who should be in the Selke Trophy mix at season's end, did much of the dirty work along the walls on Thursday, and with only seconds remaining on the clock in period two, it paid off.

With the Wild on the power play, the Blues had two opportunities to get to a puck first and clear it to essentially end the period down just one goal. Instead, Niederreiter beat Robert Bortuzzo for a loose puck, then Koivu outmuscled the 6-foot-7 Colton Parayko for it and poked it to Mikael Granlund in front of the net. 

Granlund made a fantastic move, but Blues goaltender Carter Hutton made a sprawling toe save. That's where Koivu re-entered the picture, crashing the blue paint and poking the puck into an open net for his 15th goal.

"That was definitely huge for us," Niederreiter said. "We knew they were going to come out hard in the third period. I feel like we found a way. The longer the games go the better we play. it was a big win for us."

"When you score at the end of the period like that, it gives you a little breathing room there," Granlund said. 

The captain is now just two goals from matching the 17 he scored in 82 games last year, and is on pace to surpass his career high of 22 back in 2009-10.

Granlund, who earned the first assist, extended his career-long points streak to nine games, the longest active streak in the NHL. He scored a third-period goal to cap a two-point night.

"I think as a line, we've been doing a real good job," Granlund said. "Just the overall game, just the way we try to defend hard and obviously when you defend hard that creates a lot of chances for you. With [Zucker's] speed and Mikko's really good defensive game, we get a lot of chances. It's been a fun stretch, but there's still a lot of season left."

For Niederreiter, it was his second assist of the game. He would go on to score Minnesota's fourth goal of the game at the 1:29 mark of the third period.

3. Dubnyk was in All-Star form on Thursday, keeping the Wild (32-11-5) afloat early before the offensive outburst.

Believe it or not, the Wild and Blues (24-20-5) played to a scoreless first period, thanks in large part to Dubnyk, who was outstanding through the first half of the game and again late. In between, late in the second and for large parts of the third, Dubnyk was rarely tested.

Warned this morning about not taking its foot off the gas before the break, Minnesota kept its skate firmly on the accelerator.

"That was awesome and that's the way we played," Dubnyk said. "We started to get back in order in Dallas to how we want to play and Bruce talked about it, we'll still score goals playing tight defensively, we'll still score and we showed that perfectly tonight."

In addition to his stop on Patrik Berglund, which short-circuited a 2-on-1 break for St. Louis, Dubnyk was corralling shots through traffic and limiting rebound opportunities.

His only goal allowed, one that tied the game at 1-1, was on a breakaway to Vladimir Tarasenko, one of the NHL's most dangerous snipers. But Dubnyk settled in again after that as Minnesota got goals from Tyler Graovac and Koivu in the second and Niederreiter and Granlund in the third to pull away.

"That was the guy that played the first 40 games. He was sharp," Boudreau said. "They had some good chances at the end, but I think he held on and did a real good job."

Video: Bruce Boudreau Postgame vs. St. Louis

Dubnyk, who had 24 saves on Thursday, finishes the (virtual) first half with a 27-8-3 record and his name atop the NHL's goals-against average (1.88) and save percentage (.936) statistics. 


Loose Pucks

Erik Haula scored the initial goal of the game, his 10th of the season and fourth in his past six games.

Zach Parise and Matt Dumba each reached milestones on Thursday; Parise played in his 800th NHL game while Dumba laced them up in his 200th.

• Hutton was lifted after allowing his fifth goal on 30 shots at the 2:11 mark of the third period.

• Minnesota improved to 19-6-4 against the West and 11-4-2 versus the Central this season.

• Attendance: 19,064


He Said It

"I'm just trying to find a consistent way to play defensively sound. That really was a lucky goal. It feels good. It's my Dad's birthday today so I wanted to get one for him. I wanted to get something for him and the best I could do was a goal. I'm sure he appreciated that." -- Wild forward Tyler Graovac on his goal, which ended up being the game-winner


They Said It

"We need to take a break and really figure out how badly we want it here, everybody, and see where we go from there." -- Blues coach Ken Hitchcock


Three Stars

* Nino Niederreiter

** Mikael Granlund

*** Devan Dubnyk

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