Surging Wild try to stay hot against sliding Blues

3:23 PM, Apr 1, 2013   |    comments
Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports
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(Sports Network) - While the Minnesota Wild surged to the top of the Northwest Division with an excellent March, the St. Louis Blues have struggled as of late and remain in the midst of a tight playoff race.

The Wild hope to begin the new month with their 11th victory in 13 games on Monday night and hand the Blues a fourth straight setback.

Minnesota's 10-2-0 mark over its last 12 games has the club tied with Vancouver atop the divisional standings with 44 points, but the Wild have two more wins and a game in hand over the Canucks, who visit the San Jose Sharks on Monday night.

The Wild ripped off seven straight wins from March 14-27 before suffering a 5-3 setback at the Dallas Stars on Friday. They got right back to work just 24 hours later and rallied from two goals down to best the Los Angeles Kings 4-3 in a shootout.

Charlie Coyle and Zach Parise scored to erase a 2-1 deficit before Parise, Mikko Koivu and Matt Cullen all lit the lamp in the shootout. Niklas Backstrom made 28 saves and stopped 1-of-2 in the breakaway session to win his eighth straight decision, a new club record. He had set the previous mark of seven in a row from March 8-22, 2007.

"All I can say is this shows a huge amount of character by our team," said Wild coach Mike Yeo. "Back-to-back games, they're sitting here waiting for us; down 3-1 against a team that doesn't give you much. Just a great job by our guys."

Cullen also scored in regulation, while Koivu had two assists to give him 11 points over a seven-game point streak. Minnesota won its fourth straight at home.

The Blues, meanwhile, have lost three straight to post their longest losing streak since a five-game drought from Feb. 1-11. They have been out of action since Thursday, when they lost a 4-2 game to the Kings.

The idle time has hurt St. Louis in the standings. The club went into play on Sunday with 36 points and holding onto the eighth spot in the Western Conference, but comes into this game a point back of Columbus for the final playoff spot in the conference. Three other teams also trail the Blues by just a single point.

The Blues were not completely inactive since their last game, sending a pair of conditional picks in the 2013 draft to the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday for defenseman Jordan Leopold.

The 30-year-old blueliner registered two goals and six assists in 24 games for the Sabres this season, following a two-year stretch with the franchise that saw him strike for 23 goals and 59 points in 150 appearances.

His presence will hopefully help a Blues club that has been outscored 10-4 over its slide.

St. Louis got both of its goals last Thursday from rookie Vladimir Tarasenko, who has eight goals and 16 points in 23 games this season. He picked up the second multi-goal game of his career and first since the season opener on Jan. 19.

"This was not good because the team lost," said Tarasenko. "It doesn't matter how many goals you score and how many points you make. It's all about a win."

Jaroslav Halak gave up three goals on 39 shots in the loss.

St. Louis begins a tough stretch of back-to-back road games tonight as it will also visit the Western Conference-leading Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday.

The Blues have won three straight versus the Wild, taking the first of three meetings this season 5-4 in overtime on Jan. 27 in St. Louis. Vladimir Sobotka had the game-winner, one of five different goal-scorers, while Brian Elliott made 12 saves.

Parise, who currently leads the Wild with 15 goals, scored twice and had an assist in the setback, while Backstrom made 29 saves on 34 shots.

Minnesota has won six of its past seven at home versus St. Louis.


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