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Updated: February 18th, 2012 4:25pm
New kinds of lifeless: Wild muster 13 shots in shutout loss to Blues

New kinds of lifeless: Wild muster 13 shots in shutout loss to Blues

by Jess Myers
1500ESPN.com
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Sadly, this one could've been even worse.

The Minnesota Wild's mid-winter losing streak grew to seven games on Saturday afternoon, as they offered minimal resistance to the NHL's best home team, falling 4-0 to the St. Louis Blues.

The Blues took an early lead, scored twice in the middle period, then held on during an ugly third period to keep the Wild reeling. And it wasn't the usual suspects for the Blues doing the damage, as a pair of their goals came from players who previously hadn't scored this year.

Goalie Josh Harding, routinely rumored to be trade bait, was the only thing that could pass as a standout for the Wild, stopping 30 of the 34 shots he faced, and denying Patrick Berglund on a second period penalty shot. The Wild blocked 21 Blues shots.

In the other net, Blues goalie Brian Elliott had a quiet afternoon, facing only 13 shots by the Wild, six of them in the final two periods.

"We started OK. The first period wasn't bad," Wild coach Mike Yeo told reporters afterward. "We came out flat in the second period and once it was 2-0 we didn't respond the right way."

The skinny

Thankfully, thesaurus offers several synonyms for "lifeless" as without them, describing the recent efforts of the Wild would be a greater challenge. Among the options available are "barren," "comatose," "empty," and "sterile" - all of which are helpful in capturing the essence of the Wild in games like this one.

Losses, like the hard-fought shootout defeat at the hands of the Jets on Thursday, can still be a source of inspiration. And then there are days like this one, where it seems the only thing missing was a press release officially announcing the start of "playing out the string" mode.

Yeo admitted to a reporter after the game that his team giving up worries him, "big time."

"There's a bigger picture here," he said, seemingly asking for patience and reminding people that he's still had less than a full season to mold the team into the form he wants. "We're still developing our culture."

In fairness, it's easy to speculate how different things might have been with the likes of Guillaume Latendresse and Pierre-Marc Bouchard in the lineup on most nights. Still, every team deals with injuries, and the off-season pickups of Devin Setoguchi and Dany Heatley were designed with providing the offensive depth necessary to survive the losses of other sources of goals.

On Saturday, a promising start gave way to a second period lull that turned a one-goal deficit into a three-goal hole that few had designs on climbing out of. By the time the fights were settled and the final horn sounded, the Wild remained in 12th place in the 15-team Western Conference, and the losing streak had grown by one more game.

"They played a good game, there's no question," Yeo said in praise of the Blues. "Lots of teams play a good game, but if you can execute you have a chance to break it down. If you don't, you saw it tonight."

Turning point

Knowing how much the Wild have struggled to score, and how tough the Blues play at home, a 2-0 lead by St. Louis looked pretty daunting. But hopes of a Minnesota comeback were all but dashed in the final seconds of the middle period when Andy McDonald tipped an Alex Pietrangelo shot past Harding on a Blues power play, boosting the lead to three goals and sapping much of the life from the Wild.

Numbers game

28-0-0: The Blues' record when scoring three goals or more this season.

12/03/11: The date of the Blues' last loss at home.

2,000: Career games worked by NHL linesman Dan Schachte, who was honored before the game.

10: Goals scored by the Wild over the past eight games, in which they've gone 1-5-2.

Health watch

Wild captain Mikko Koivu did not make the trip to St. Louis and was scratched from the lineup because of an undisclosed injury. Koivu, you'll recall, missed eight games in January and February with a left shoulder injury, returning to the lineup on Feb. 9. Defenseman Mike Lundin was also held out. Lundin left early in the Wild's 4-3 shootout loss to Winnipeg on Thursday and is dealing with a lower body injury.

The Wild's Warren Peters may face supplemental discipline as well after a nasty third period scrum. With players tied up and scuffling near the Wild net, Peters cross-checked Blues captain David Backes in the side of the head. While Backes crumpled to the ice clutching his right ear, Peters was given a major penalty and tossed from the game. Backes left the ice and did not return.

Summary

First period

Blues - Ryan Reaves 1 (Nichol, Shattenkirk), 9:50

Second period

Blues - Barret Jackman 1 (Berglund, Langenbrunner), 4:36

Blues - Andy McDonald 2 (Pietrangelo, Shattenkirk), 19:19, PPG

Third period

Blues - Vladmir Sobotka 3 (Perron, Pietrangelo), 8:11

Shots: Wild 7-3-3-13; Blues 9-17-8-34. Saves: Wild, Josh Harding (30-34); Blues, Brian Elliott (13-13). Power plays: Wild 0-for-3, Blues 1-7.

Three stars

1. Kevin Shattenkirk

2. Alex Pietrangelo

3. Brian Elliott

Coming up

While the Wild were toiling in Missouri, the defending Stanley Cup champions have been in Minnesota, waiting. The Boston Bruins had a morning skate at Wakota Arena in South St. Paul on Saturday morning, in advance of facing the Wild on Sunday afternoon in St. Paul. 

Jess Myers covers the Wild and college hockey for 1500ESPN.com. He is a member of the editorial advisory board for USA Hockey Magazine.
Email Jess | @JessRMyers
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