The Minnesota Wild came into tonight's game with the top wildcard slot, but feeling heat from the Phoenix Coyotes. They hadn't beat the Blues all year. While the Blues have already clinched, they still have personal goals and positioning to play for. With both teams motivated, tonight could have been quite a game. The Minnesota team needed to Strike Back to keep their playoff plans alive.
Turns out, they were more of a Phantom Menace.
Pregame/First Period: Brought to you by Dogfish Head 90-Minute IPA
I cracked open a really good brew, and settled in for the game. We got to see a LOT of Blues fans dressed in their Star Wars outfits for the game, celebrating Star Wars Night at the DrinkScotch Center. I didn't think Blues fans and nerds would have that much crossover, but there you go. Fitting then, that the Blues hold that promotion on a night where we play America's version of Hoth.
The Blues have had a problem staying out of the sin bin lately, and that seemed to continue for this game right off the bat. Roman Polak took an interference minor just 1:13 into the game, putting the team on the PK immediately. The Blues killed that off, and then shortly afterward at the 4:43 mark Real American Hero and possible Jedi T.J. Oshie scored his first of the night. With assists to David Backes and Roman Polak, Oshie-Wan took an initial shot upon entering the zone, skated behind the net, picked up the loose puck in the slot, and hit paydirt with this beauty:
Later, the Blues would go on the power play, but not get anything for their efforts. At the 12:10 mark, Polak would take another penalty, but his teammates were able to kill that one, too. Some fireworks happened at the 17:59 mark, though, when Cody McCormick gave Kevin Shattenkirk a questionable hit, leading with the elbow. That was missed by the officials, amazingly, but Shattenkirk's physical objections (and those of his teammates) resulted in a scrum in the corner. The net result was a bloodied McCormick and a 4:00 power play for the Wilds. This set the pace for remainder of the game: normal hockey shenanigans from Wild players, Blues retaliate, and penalty for the St Louis squad. Actually, the officiating was inconsistent all night in both directions, but the Blues did not help themselves at all with their retaliation.
On the other hand, Oshie wasn't done helping himself to some goals. While on that same PK, Oshie tipped a pass in the neutral zone away from a Wild player, took control, and at 19:34 skated in (Han) Solo on Minnesota goalie Darcy Kuemper:
Second Period: Brought to you by Stag
Shattenkirk's double-minor continued into the second period, as our heroes started the frame short-handed. The Wild seemed uninterested in scoring during that advantage, as noted by Minnesota beat reporter Mike Russo:
The period was mostly uneventful, as the Blues and Wild exchanged penalties. One of those, by Mikael Granlund, resulted in a rare sight as of late: a power play goal for the Blues. Jaden Schwartz hit the mark at 13:10, with assists from Carlo Colaiacovo and Jay Bouwmeester :
That was set up by an effective screen by Brenden Morrow. As noted later by Darren Pang, Schwartz's shot came at the exact moment that Kuemper switched from looking around Morrow's left to his right, so he had almost no time to track the puck and make the save. A beautiful goal by Schwartz, and the inevitable opportunity for a thousand "Schwartz be with you" tweets. Also, this nugget:
The second ended with another Blues retaliation penalty. Wild's own AT-ST (aka "Chicken Walker") Kyle Brodziak slashed Derek Roy as Roy carried the puck behind his net. Not a love tap, mind you, but actually breaking his own stick across Roy's stick and leg. Roy stopped and gave one back. Guess which one got called? Sure enough, Roy was assessed a slashing minor at the 20:00 mark. Through two periods, the Wild are actually out-shooting the Blues 15-14, but the Blues actually hold an edge in Fenwick - meaning that the Blues had more attempts, but the Wild blocked enough that fewer tries by the Blues made it to the net.
Third Period: Brought to you by Banana-Split Concrete by Dairy Freeze in Collinsville, IL. (cheap plug)
The period started on the aforementioned penalty kill, which the Blues killed off. The Wild kept trying to get back in the game, but Ryan Miller and the Blues kept them off the board. Finally, after yet another great possession in the Wild zone, a Jay Bouwmeester shot from the point was tipped in. The goal was at the 7:18 mark, and held up to review for a possible high stick. Good goal, and once it was announced to have been scored by Oshie-Wan (assists to JayBo and ChewBackes), the hats came pouring down:
That was a historic goal from Oshie. First, those 3 goals gave him a career-high 21 on the year. Also, this was the first Blues back-to-back Hat Trick games in a long time - December 2000, in fact. That was Pavol Demitra and Michal Handzus back then. The Wild were really behind the eight ball at this point, and it got even worse for them when Jason Pominville took a tripping penalty at 8:42, and Kyle Brodziak took a slashing penalty at 9:28, plus a 10-minute misconduct penalty. The Blues took advantage at the 10:45 mark when Brenden Morrow buried a loose puck off of an Alexander Steen shot. He'd been paying the dues all night, taking abuse from his position in the goalie's face, so it was good to see that pay off:
The other assist for that goal went to Vladimir Sobotka,a career-high 30th point, and with that:
The Blues were finally finished scoring for the night. The 5 goals by the good guys won Big Macs for those in attendance (all 19,646 - well done, St Louis! #RockTheScott). Unfortunately, the Blizmacos only exist here on Game Time. The Wild finally got on the board at the 11:11 mark of the third period, preserving the #RyanMillerShutout. Too little, too late, and the Wild go home with little to show for tonight's effort.
Three Stars: (3) Brenden Morrow , (2) Ryan Miller, and (1) TJ Oshie