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Blues blank Wild for sixth straight win

The SportsXchange

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- When the Blues visited Minnesota on April 1, St. Louis had lost three in a row and was in danger of falling out of the playoff chase. The Blues dominated the Wild 4-1 that night and haven't stopped winning since.

On Thursday night, Brian Elliott stopped 23 shots for his third straight shutout, and the Blues won their sixth consecutive game, beating the Wild 2-0.

St. Louis (23-14-2) holds sixth place in the Western Conference standings, two points behind the fourth-place Los Angeles Kings and one point back of the San Jose Sharks.

"We knew the kind of potential we have, but things just weren't clicking at some times early on in the season," Elliott said. "Now, I think everybody has a role and they're playing it to the best of their ability. We have a good team when we can do that."

Roman Polak scored his first goal in more than two years, and Andy McDonald also scored for the Blues.

"We're finally on the same page that we were on for most of last year where you take care of the defensive zone, you work, you don't give them anything and make them earn it all," said St. Louis' David Backes, who assisted on McDonald's goal. "Great goaltending and good defense seems to be a good recipe."

Thanks in large part to Elliott's excellence in April, the Blues have allowed just five goals during their winning streak. Elliott has allowed just four goals in the five games he has played this month.

"It's just trying to stay to the basics and let the game come to you," he said.

After going 0-5-1 with a 4.56 goals-against average in seven games from Feb. 1-March 5, Elliott did not dress for nine of 10 games as Jaroslav Halak and Jake Allen saw all the ice time, and he even had a one-game stint in the minors on March 28.

Elliott was pressed into action April 1 in Minnesota when Halak went down with a groin injury late in the first period. He has won four games since then, including three starts. He has not allowed a goal in 189 minutes and 31 seconds.

"He lost his mojo, and now he's found his mojo and away he goes," Backes said. "When you have steady goaltending the way that our goalies have been as of late, you can play pretty confident in front of them."

Niklas Backstrom had 18 saves for the Wild, who have lost six of eight. Minnesota has been blanked in three of its past four games.

Coach Mike Yeo won't push the panic button.

"Right through the lineup, we competed hard," he said. "We did a lot of good things and obviously made a couple mistakes, but we've got nothing to hang our head about, that's for sure."

Minnesota left wing Zach Parise said close enough doesn't count, especially at this time of year.

"I think we're pretty frustrated. I think it's a game we feel, another one, that we feel we could have come on the other side of," he said.

The Wild played the third period without defenseman Ryan Suter, who also missed some minutes early in the second period.

"We're confident he'll be fine," Yeo said without elaborating.

Elliott was rarely tested against a Minnesota offense that was blanked for the second straight game. The St. Louis defense did a good job of keeping Minnesota to the outside, keeping lanes clear for Elliott to see the shooter and quickly clearing away rebounds.

Still, Minnesota controlled play for much of the first two periods, but St. Louis got the lone goal thanks to a defensive breakdown.

Left alone in front midway through the first period, Polak took a pass from Chris Stewart, who fought off a check coming out of the left corner, and beat Backstrom high on the glove side. It was the defenseman's first goal in 121 games dating back to March 30, 2011.

Minnesota has allowed the game's first goal in seven of its last eight contests, after opening the scoring in 10 of 11 games.

McDonald gave the Blues an insurance marker midway through the third period.

Vladimir Tarasenko knocked Andrew Falk off the puck as the two chased it into the Wild end, and Tarasenko left it for McDonald. The center cut to the slot and beat Backstrom between the pads for a 2-0 lead.

St. Louis, which killed off all three short-handed situations, has not allowed a power-play goal in 19 chances over eight games.

NOTES: After Friday's game in Columbus, St. Louis plays seven of its final eight games at home. ... Six of the Wild's final eight games are against teams currently below the playoff cut. ... Wild C Matt Cullen skated again Thursday morning, but he missed his fifth straight game with a lower-body injury. ... St. Louis C Scott Nichol also missed his fifth straight game with a lower-body injury. He is considered day-to-day. ... Suter is trying to become the first player since Brian Leetch in 2000-01 to lead the league's defensemen in ice time, assists and points. Among defensemen, Suter currently averages a league-best 27:29 in ice time, and he is tied for the lead in assists (25) and is second in points (29).
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