ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Minnesota Wild recently became the third West Division team to clinch a spot in the playoffs.
The St. Louis Blues made quite the case to join them with this comeback.
Robert Thomas tracked down a skipping puck and snapped it into the top of the net with 23 seconds left, capping a three-goal third-period rally by the Blues for a 4-3 victory on Wednesday night to stop the Wild’s seven-game winning streak.
“It’s a mindset for me more than anything. It’s staying on our toes and being aggressive,” said coach Craig Berube, whose team won its third straight game to improve to 22-19-6 and take another step toward fending off Arizona, San Jose and Los Angeles for the fourth and final spot in the division.
Mike Hoffman’s second power play goal of the game, both assisted by David Perron, brought the Blues within one early in the third period following a hooking call on Matt Dumba. Jordan Kyrou tied the game about four minutes later after a turnover by Dumba.
Then came the most costly of all the defensive breakdowns by the Wild, when Jonas Brodin was caught flat-footed and beaten by some slick stick work by Thomas for the third-latest go-ahead regulation goal in the NHL this season.
“We’re definitely clicking a lot more together as a group. These are huge wins for us,” Kyrou said.
Marcus Foligno had a goal and an assist, Brodin and Joel Eriksson Ek also scored and Jordan Greenway had two assists for the Wild, who wasted a prime opportunity to creep closer to the division lead behind Vegas and Colorado. Both the Golden Knights and Avalanche played later.
“We wanted to catch Colorado and put heat on them, and these guys are trying to fight for their playoff lives, too,” Foligno said. “We have a lot to play for. I know we have an `X’ next to our name in the standings, but it doesn’t mean (anything). We’ve got to come ready to work and play a full 60.”
Cam Talbot, who stopped 28 shots for the Wild, had his five-start winning streak snapped.
“When games were on the line and we needed big saves in the past few weeks, I’ve been making those saves. Tonight I didn’t make the save that I need to make down the stretch there,” he said.
Jordan Binnington had 25 stops for the Blues to improve to 5-1 in six career starts against the Wild, the only loss coming here in a 2-0 decision on March 25 to Talbot.
The Blues were the last team to beat the Wild, too, a 3-2 win in overtime on April 10 when Hoffman tied the game with 42 seconds remaining in regulation. Hoffman, who has seven goals and four assists in his last seven games, was moved to the first power play unit.
“Hoffman had good jump all game. He was on his toes. He was determined,” Berube said.
The same could be said for the Blues in their quest for the playoffs, their taste of the Stanley Cup still relatively fresh from 2019.
“We know they’re not going to quit,” Talbot said. “They’re a desperate team right now, and they’re going to play to win there at the end.”
The Wild brought the NHL’s fourth-best penalty kill into the evening, but Perron found Hoffman with cross-slot passes for backdoor one-timers just 8 and 29 seconds into those power plays, respectively. This was the eighth straight game with a power play goal for St. Louis.
ODDS AND ENDLINES
Eriksson Ek left the game late in the third period after a neutral-zone collision with a Blues player but said he was fine afterward. … Blues defencemen Vince Dunn and Colton Parayko were out for the second straight game with upper body injuries. Forward Zach Sanford, a healthy scratch for the last two games, returned to the lineup. … The Wild have outscored opponents 52-30 in the first period. … Foligno has three goals in his last four games.