St. Louis 2, Minnesota 0

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ST. LOUIS (TICKER) Curtis Sanford received a second straight start and likely earned another for the St. Louis Blues.

The rookie goaltender made 27 saves for his first career shutout and Pavol Demitra scored twice, leading the Blues to a 2-0 victory over the Minnesota Wild.

“They had some good chances,” Sanford said. “The defense let me see the shots pretty well though. It was a pretty good group effort.”

With Brent Johnson and Fred Brathwaite struggling, St. Louis coach Joel Quenneville turned to Sanford and the 23-year-old has responded. He stopped 21 shots in Thursday’s 4-1 victory over Edmonton.

Minnesota completed a 2-1-0 road trip and with 73 points still needs one to set a team record.

“Four out of six (points) on the road was pretty good,” Wild coach Jacques Lemaire said. “The game could have gone either way.”

In his second stint with St. Louis after being recalled from Worcester of the American Hockey League on Tuesday, Sanford extended his scoreless streak to 116 minutes, 31 seconds and improved to 5-0-0 in the NHL.

He had to be sharp in this one as the teams played a tight-checking, defensive-minded contest.

“I don’t know how long I’m going to be here, but playing like that, it’s going to be tough decision-making on the coaching staff and management,” Sanford said. “I don’t want to create any controversy.”

“He’s played two really remarkable games right out of the gate,” Quenneville added. “You got to give him credit for doing a lot of good things tonight.”

The Blues were without Doug Weight, who is sidelined with a facial fracture, and Keith Tkachuk, who served the second of a four-game suspension for cross-checking Minnesota’s Wes Walz on February 23.

St. Louis received another blow when Al MacInnis, the NHL’s top scoring defenseman, received a game misconduct just 3:27 into the opening period for spearing Jeremy Stevenson. Stevenson suffered a bruised throat and did not return.

“Certainly, not a spear by any means,” said MacInnis, who went over to the Minnesota bench to see if Stevenson was all right. “It was more of a high stick than anything else. There was no intent to injure. We jostled back and forth a couple times. I kind of tried to jab him in the midsection. He was behind me a little more than I thought.”

MacInnis did not expect a game misconduct.

“Certainly, an accident to hit him in the throat,” he said. “There was no spearing motion. My stick came up the side of him. I thought I would get four minutes for it.”

Stevenson also did not think there was any intent on MacInnis’ part.

“Everything turned out OK,” he said. “He’s a great player, he’s not like that. We’ll get it (the throat) looked at tomorrow and go from there.”

Without three of their top offensive weapons, the Blues managed just 15 shots - four in the first period, seven in the second and four in the third.

Demitra finally snapped a scoreless tie 5:47 into the second, grabbing Scott Mellanby’s rebound and jamming it past Dwayne Roloson for a power-play goal.

Demitra provided insurance, taking a center pass from Cory Stillman in the crease and beating Roloson with a wrist shot.

Stillman also assisted on Demitra’s first goal.

“We know we have a great team now,” Demitra said. “Sanford’s playing with a lot of confidence. The saves he’s making, they’re great. He gives you a chance to win the game.”

Sanford frustrated the Wild, stopping Cliff Ronning’s breakway in the second and Sergei Zholtok’s deflection with two minutes left in the period.

Ronning put a shot off the right goalpost with 12:19 remaining in the third and Sanford made three saves on a late power play to preserve the shutout.

“He made some really good saves, but he had luck, too,” Minnesota center Jim Dowd said. “It’s one of those games. We were skating, it just wasn’t going in today.”

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