Minnesota was denied its third straight victory Monday, losing 6-5 to visiting Colorado. The six goals were the most Minnesota (14-8-1) has allowed this season and the most it has given up since an 8-3 loss to Dallas on Dec. 26.
One of the league’s top goaltenders this season, Niklas Backstrom had an off night Monday as he surrendered six goals on 26 shots before he was pulled after the second period. Josh Harding stopped all five shots he faced over the final 20 minutes.
“Worst two periods that I’ve seen,” Wild coach Jacques Lemaire said. “We made so many mistakes there in the first and second, and we lost confidence a bit.”
After starting the season 11-3-1 with a 1.92 goals-against average, Backstrom has slipped a bit lately, going 2-4-0 with a 3.57 GAA in his last six starts.
Facing the Blues could be just what Backstrom needs to get back on track. He has won three of his last four starts against them, yielding six goals in those contests.
While their last performance was a forgettable one, the Wild have been a potent offensive team lately despite the absence of star forward Marian Gaborik, who has been sidelined since Oct. 14 with a lower body injury.
Minnesota has scored 22 goals in its last five games with captain Mikko Koivu the catalyst. Koivu has four goals and five assists during a five-game point streak and leads the team with nine goals, 18 assists and 27 points.
St. Louis (10-10-2) rebounded from consecutive losses with a 4-2 victory at Atlanta on Sunday.
“It was exciting to celebrate and have the guys come out on the ice. Just the way the guys reacted was pretty cool,” Tkachuk said. “I was in the right place at the right time.”
After starting the year 4-1-0, St. Louis went 1-7-1 but followed that with a 4-0-1 stretch that ended with recent back-to-back losses to Colorado and Edmonton.
Backup Chris Mason had another strong performance Sunday, stopping 28 of 30 shots. He has allowed four goals on his last 134 shots against, lowering his GAA from 3.59 to 2.29 and improving his save percentage from .878 to .928.
Although coach Andy Murry hasn’t said whether he will start Mason or Manny Legace on Wednesday, Mason did make 31 saves in a 2-1 win at Minnesota on Nov. 22. Legace, meanwhile, is 2-5-1 in his last nine starts since opening the season with four straight wins.
With top center Andy McDonald sidelined with a fractured leg, there is added pressure on Boyes to produce. Boyes has responded with four goals in his last five games after scoring just once in his previous nine contests. He scored both goals in St. Louis’ win at Minnesota last month.
The Wild are 11-3-1 with two ties against the Blues since the start of the 2003-04 season. Minnesota is 7-2-0 at home during that span, with the two losses coming in the past three meetings.