Harding notches 30 saves as Wild collect fourth straight win
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ST. PAUL, MINN. -- The Minnesota Wild won their fourth straight game Saturday by beating the St Louis Blues 2-1 in front of an announced crowd of 16,917.
This marks the first time since last January the Wild were victorious in four straight contests and they now find themselves just a point behind the first place Edmonton Oilers for first place in the Northwest division.
Goals were scored by wingers Dany Heatley and Guilliaume Latendresse and goalie Josh Harding made 30 saves in the winning effort.
"I thought the team looked great tonight," Harding said. "They are not an easy team to play against. They come at you every shift."
The Wild will be looking forward to their remaining three games with St. Louis on their schedule. The win improved their overall record against the Blues to 21-12-8
The Wild came flying out of the gates hoping to build off the momentum from their five goal outburst against Vancouver and capitalize on a road-weary Blues team that were playing their third back-to-back of the season after beating the Canucks 3-2.
The home side controlled most of the action in the opening period but couldn't get any of their five shots past Blues' goalie Jaroslav Halak.
"I didn't think our start was particularly great," Wild head coach Mike Yeo said after the game. "I give our guys credit because we raised our game."
The Blues also weren't able to do anything with the five attempts on goal they managed in a breezy first period that saw just 10 power plays and a lone penalty to Blues' defensemen Carlo Colaiacovo for hooking Cal Cluutterbuck midway through the frame.
The Wild opened the scoring in the second period on a 4-on-4 after penalties to defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk (hooking) and defenseman Marek Zidlicky (holding). Defenseman Nate Prosser laid down to block a shot off his ankle causing the puck to spurt ahead to center Mikko Koivu who ran an text book 2-on-1 with winger Heatley who beat Halak for his sixth goal of the year.
"I didn't even know I got an assist," Prosser said about his blocked shot while wearing a large ice bag on the ankle responsible for the assist. "I just saw it went the other way and it ended up in the back of the net."
"He made a hell of a play," Heatley said.
The Wild doubled their lead 10 minutes later when Latendresse intercepted an ugly pass attempt from defenseman Alex Pietrangelo and slid a nifty backhander past Halak with 1:18 remaining in the period for his fourth tally of the season.
The Blues ruined goalie Josh Harding's chance at a shutout with 2:02 left in the game when Jamie Langenbrunner tapped in as hot from point-blank.
"I am not worried about (the shutout)," Harding said. "The wins are the most important thing right now. Obviously it would have been nice but they made a nice play."
The Blues had multiple chances to equalize the game when Halek was pulled with just over a minute to go but the Wild were able to withstand the pressure to secure their fourth consecutive win and the full two points.
"They pushed back a bit but we stood strong," Heatley said. "In the end they made a push but we held on."
Heatley's goal and Koivu's assist put level with center Matt Cullen, winger Pierre-Marc Buchard and winger Devin Setoguchi for a team-high eight points.
"That is a good sign we are seeing different guys (score)," Yeo said.
The turning point came during a 10 minute stretch in the second period where both Heatley and Latendresse scored and momentarily took the wind out of the Blues' sails while the Wild improved to 3-1 against teams coming off a back-to-back in 2011.
The second period ended in chippy fashion with three players sent to the box from each time for roughing penalties inside of a minute remaining.
"They were getting tired and frustrated," Yeo said. "I like seeing teams do that because it is almost them saying 'This is the only way we can beat them.'"
10: Straight games at Xcel Energy Center the Wild have scored the first goal against St Louis.
4: Game win streak for the Wild for the first time since a four game stretch last January
14: Consecutive power plays killed off by the Wild in a stretch over the past four games.
30: Saves by goalie Josh Harding
22: Goals scored at home in 43 games for Guilliaume Latendresse
First period: No scoring
Second period: Wild - Dany Heatley 6 (Mikko Koivu, Nate Prosser) 11:39 - Guillaume Latendresse 3 (Unassisted)
Third period: Blues: Jamie Langenbrunner 1 (Vladimir Sobotka, Alex Pietrangelo)
Shots: Wild 4-12-10-1-27; Red Wings 12-9-11-5-37. Saves: Wild, Josh Harding (31-30); Blues, Jaroslav Halak (26-24). Power play:Wild 0-for-3, Red Wings 0-for-4.
1. Josh Harding
2. Guillaume Latendresse
3. Nate Prosser
The Wild have two days off before they depart for an eight-day five-game West coast road swing, their longest stretch away from Xcel Energy Center all season.
First up is a trip to the Scotiabank Saddledome to take on Calgary Tuesday. Entering Saturday the Flames were in the cellar of the Northwest division with 11 points. This will be the first meeting between the Wild and the Flames in 2011. The Wild won the season series 4-1-1 a year ago and are 10-2-1 in their last 13 games against the Flames.
From there, they go to San Jose, Los Angeles, Anaheim and Columbus before returning home to take on division rival Colorado.