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Blues snap losing streak, cool off red-hot Wild

The SportsXchange

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- When you're riding a losing streak, and desperate for points to stay in the playoff hunt, visiting one of the hottest teams in the NHL seems like a bad idea. But for the St. Louis Blues, it worked out fine.

Andy McDonald and Kevin Shattenkirk scored less than two minutes apart in a dominating second period, helping the Blues snap a three-game losing string in a 4-1 win over the Minnesota Wild.

Jaden Schwartz and Barret Jackman also scored for the Blues, and goalie Brian Elliott made 19 saves in a relief role as St. Louis (18-14-2) won for the first time in a week.

"We're a desperate team right now, needing points as bad as anyone," Blues captain David Backes said. "They've got a great team that comes hard. We stuck together for a great 60-minute win and had some great timely goaltending."

Jaroslav Halak started in goal for St. Louis and stopped all five shots he faced. He left with 12.5 seconds remaining in the opening period after falling awkwardly while moving to block a Jared Spurgeon shot that went wide of the net. Elliott, who has not started a game for a month and was a healthy scratch for 10 games in March, came on to replace Halak.

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock hinted that Halak, who has struggled with groin injuries in the past, might be out for a time. Hitchcock Jake Allen will be recalled from their minor league team.

"It's part of the job description that you've got to be ready to go," said Elliott, who had spent time in the minors recently. "You never want to see a teammate go down, and it looked like he was in some pain. ... They've got a lot of firepower and they like to push the pace and keep the puck moving. For the most part we did a good job."

Dany Heatley had the only highlight for the Wild, scoring to briefly tie the game at 1-1 in the second period, but the Wild went 0-for-4 on the power play in the second and could rarely muster any sustained offense.

"We clearly didn't have the right preparation going into the game about our identity and how we're going to play it," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "It's very important that we get that back quickly. ... We got a good reminder tonight that both defensively and offensively, things are not going to go your way if you play that way."

The Wild (21-12-2) had been among the hottest teams in the NHL, having won eight of their previous nine games, but they fell behind by two goals for the third consecutive game and could not mount a comeback. They lost at home for just the fourth time this season.

"We've gotten away from what's made us successful, that's executing and playing fast and getting in on our forecheck," Wild forward Devin Setoguchi said. "They pushed the pace to us and we just sat back and tried to react. We weren't the aggressors tonight."

Schwartz opened the scoring with just his second goal in the past 14 games, snapping a high shot past Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom.

Heatley tied the game by stuffing a loose puck under Elliott during a scramble in front of the Blues net.

But St. Louis roared back, retaking the lead when McDonald chased his own rebound and scored his first goal since Feb. 17. A few shifts later, Shattenkirk's shot from the blue line found its way through a crowd in front of Backstrom and into the net. It was Shattenkirk's first goal in a month.

Jackman scored the capper for the Blues in the final minute of the game, before the Wild could pull Backstrom for an extra attacker.

"All-in-all, it's a good road win," Hitchcock said. "We've played awful well lately and gotten no reward for it, and that's been hard for everybody and hard emotionally. To play well again and get a reward is a good feeling here."

Backstrom finished with 20 saves for the Wild, who embark on a three-game road trip starting in San Jose on Wednesday.

The Blues play next in Chicago on Thursday.

NOTES: The newest defenseman in the Blues lineup might have been more familiar to Wild fans than to those in St. Louis. Jordan Leopold, acquired over the weekend from the Buffalo Sabres, played high school hockey in suburban Minneapolis and collegiately at the University of Minnesota, where he won the Hobey Baker Award and an NCAA title in 2002. ... The Wild hollered for a penalty and got no response early in the game when captain Mikko Koivu took an inadvertent stick to the face from Blues winger Chris Stewart. Koivu missed half of the first period but returned to his post on the Wild's top line later. ... It was announced during the game that the Blues acquired defenseman Jay Bouwmeester from the Calgary Flames in exchange for the Blues' 2013 first-round draft pick and two minor league prospects. "I look at our defense now with the addition of Leopold and Bouwmeester and with the players we have there now, I think we have the strongest defense in the NHL," said Blues general manager Doug Armstrong. "We're always looking for a player we can keep for a year or a year-plus, and we got that in Bouwmeester. You can never have enough good NHL defensemen."
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