Blues blank Wild
ST. PAUL — Brian Elliott notched his third straight shutout, stretching his streak to 189 minutes, 31 seconds without a goal, and the St. Louis Blues won their sixth straight game by beating the Minnesota Wild 2-0 on Thursday night.
Roman Polak ended a 120-game streak without a goal, and Andy McDonald also scored, sending the Wild to their sixth loss in eight games. They have been shut out in three of four, the only times they have been blanked all season.
The Wild have six goals in six games, and their scoreless streak is at 121 minutes, 25 seconds.
The last time the Blues won at least six straight was Oct. 22-Nov. 7, 2010, a seven-game streak. They have given up five goals during the run.
Elliott, who won his fifth straight decision, took over to start the second period on April 1 when starter Jaroslav Halak reinjured his groin and has been unbeatable since. An afterthought in February and March, whose struggles were obvious in that stretch when he did play, Elliott was even sent to the AHL for a two-game tuneup. He was given only one start in a 22-game stretch for the Blues until that day Halak was hurt.
Elliott made 23 saves. He has stopped 118 of the last 122 shots he has faced. The Blues improved to 14-7-1 on the road, including five wins in a row, the third-best mark in the NHL behind conference leaders Chicago and Pittsburgh. After playing at Columbus on Friday, they have seven of their final eight games at home.
Polak took advantage of a lapse in the Wild zone — defenseman Tom Gilbert appeared to lose track — to sneak into the slot and snap a shot past goalie Niklas Backstrom after getting the pass from Chris Stewart from the corner. Midway through the first period, Elliott had a lead, and lately he hasn’t needed much of that.
The Wild peppered Elliott with shots on their first power play, after Barret Jackman was called for tripping, the first penalty by the Blues in a span of 77 minutes, 5 seconds after a foul-free game at Nashville on Tuesday. But Elliott had sound protection in front of him, and the man advantage ended without any damage for the Blues.
Then partway through the third period, McDonald jumped on a loose puck in the Wild zone, beat Jared Spurgeon to the slot and sneaked a backhander between Backstrom’s legs that grazed the inside of the post on the way across the goal line.
These teams have made sharp turns since March became April, the Blues for the better and the Wild for the worse. They began the night tied for sixth place in the Western Conference with 46 points apiece, but the Blues have played one fewer game than the Wild.
Though the Wild’s offense has wilted lately after injuries to key forwards Dany Heatley and Matt Cullen, their depth on defense is a concern. Stalwart Ryan Suter, the league leader in time on ice, was noticeably missing during parts of the second and third periods. Suter played 30-plus minutes in each of the last two games.
The Blues, on the other hand, have been given a jolt of energy on their blue line since acquiring veterans Jordan Leopold and Jay Boumeester in separate trades before the deadline. Their winning streak began the first night Leopold suited up, and Boumeester joined the next game.
The defense has been stifling since then. Right before the winning streak began, the Blues gave up 10 goals over a three-game stretch.
Notes: Blues RW T.J. Oshie missed his fifth straight game because of a lower body injury. The former University of North Dakota star, who played at Warroad High School in northern Minnesota, always has fans wearing his No. 74 jersey in the crowd. But he has been out for both of his team’s visits to Minnesota this season. ... Heatley will miss the rest of the season after having shoulder surgery this week. Cullen missed his fifth straight game because of a lower body injury. There is no timetable for his return. ... Polak’s last goal was March 30, 2011, at Detroit. ... The Blues have gone eight games without allowing a power-play goal, killing 19 consecutive penalties. ... In home games, the Wild’s power play entered the night ranked just 25th in the NHL. They are 10 for 73. ... Several New York Mets players, in town for a three-game series with the Twins starting Friday, watched the game from a suite and waved to the crowd when shown on the big screen above the ice.