Jess Myers / Sports Xchange, Published December 31 2013
Blues hand Wild their sixth consecutive lossST. PAUL – With two key players missing from their lineup, the St. Louis Blues devised a simple plan to keep winning: Get the puck to Jaden Schwartz.
On Tuesday, the Blues forward had a goal and an assist as St. Louis earned its fifth win in six games, beating the reeling Minnesota Wild 2-1. Schwartz missed two games in mid-December with an upper-body injury, but he now has goals in six consecutive games since returning to the lineup.
Center T.J. Oshie also scored for the Blues (27-7-5), who have not lost a regulation game in three weeks. St. Louis goaltender Brian Elliott improved to 10-1-2 and just missed his third shutout of the season. The Blues are playing without their leading scorer, center David Backes, and left winger Alexander Steen. That pair has combined for 57 points this season.
“Our lineup is what it is right now, and we’ve just got to find a way,” said Blues coach Ken Hitchcock. “Nobody’s feeling sorry for us. We’ve got to find ways to get points, and this is good.”
Minnesota (20-17-5) lost its sixth game in a row, a franchise record.
“We had a better start today. The other way wasn’t working either, so we’ll try something,” said Wild coach Mike Yeo, whose team had given up 11 goals in its previous two games but held the Blues to a pair. “They’re the players. You can be positive, you can be negative, you can get mad, whatever you got to do, but the bottom line is we need guys to be gamers, guys to step up. That’s the only way out of it.”
The Wild got a goal from defenseman Ryan Suter with 8.3 seconds left in the game but could not generate much offense, prompting boos from the home fans on more than one occasion. Minnesota got 21 saves from goalie Josh Harding,
After a scoreless first period, Oshie netted his second goal in as many games. Schwartz forced Wild center Mikael Granlund to cough up the puck in front of the Minnesota net, then flipped a pass to Oshie, who skated in alone on Harding, scoring on a deft stickhandling move at 6:49.
At 15:59 of the second period, Schwartz capped off a 4-on-2 rush into the Wild zone with a low shot that Harding slowed with his pad but could not stop from trickling over the goal line.
“He deserves all the ice time he gets,” said Oshie, praising Schwartz for stepping up with others out of the lineup. “He’s a heart and soul guy and he’s got a quick little release that it’s hard for goalies to read.”
Suter scored his second goal of the season, blasting a shot through a crowd in front of Elliott with the Wild’s goalie pulled. The Blues blocked 24 shots in the game.
St. Louis 0 2 0— 2
Minnesota 0 0 1— 1
Second Period—1, St. Louis, Oshie 6 (Schwartz) 6:49. 2, St. Louis, Schwartz 14 (Tarasenko, Elliott) 15:59.
Third Period—3, Minnesota, Suter 2 (Coyle, Koivu) 19:51.
Shots on Goal—St. Louis 7-9-7—23. Minnesota 9-5-11—25.
Power-play opportunities—St. Louis 0 of 1. Minnesota 0 of 3.
Goalies—St. Louis Elliott 10-1-2 (25 shots-24 saves). Minnesota Harding 18-7-3 (23-21).