St. Louis Blues

Wild beat the Blues for the second time in a week

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In what could be a first-round playoff matchup between the two Central Division rivals, the Wild doubled up the Blues 6-3 Saturday afternoon.

For the moment the Wild have a three-point lead on the first wild card spot in the Western Conference.

Minnesota has now beaten St. Louis twice in the span of seven days.

Justin Fontaine had a goal and two assists for his second career three-point game.

Zach Parise and Jonas Brodin scored 26-seconds apart in the second period to give the Wild a 4-0 lead and end Brian Elliott’s night early. Elliott allowed four goals on 16 shots.

“Five-10 minutes of the second period we weren’t very good. It’s pretty inexcusable at this time of the year,” said Jay Bouwmeester. “We know we’re playing desperate teams. They’re a team that’s right there and trying to stay in that playoff race.

“We’ve got to be a team that’s playing for first place.”

Chris Stewart, Thomas Vanek and Mikko Koivu had the other Wild goals.

Devan Dubnyk made 26 saves in his 31st consecutive start.

Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz each had a goal and an assist in the loss. With his two-point afternoon, Tarasenko now has 70 points on the season.

Paul Stastny also scored for St. Louis.

“There’s no excuses, we’re playing a team that’s desperate for their playoff lives and we’re trying to situate ourselves in the Central Division,” said David Backes. “You shouldn’t need anymore motivation at this time of the year.

“We need to be playing our brand of hockey every night, putting it all out there and if a team just plays better than us, we’ve got to tip our cap, but I don’t think we can say that tonight.”

Blues defenseman Carl Gunnarsson left the game with 13:50 remaining in the second period with an upper body injury and did not return.

Jake Allen made 10 saves in relief.

Video: Wild chase Elliott after scoring 4 goals on 16 shots

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The Minnesota Wild scored four on their first 16 shots Saturday afternoon chasing St. Louis Blues’ starter Brian Elliott.

Chris Stewart opened the scoring at 7:47 of the first period. Thomas Vanek gave Minnesota a 2-0 lead at 12:14 of the opening frame.

The Wild then scored twice in a 26-span of the second period to take a 4-0 lead.

Jake Allen has replaced Elliott in the Blues net.

The Wild entered Saturday’s action with a one-point lead on the Winnipeg Jets for the first wild card spot in the Western Conference and seven points back of the Chicago Blackhawks for the third seed in the Central Division.

Video: Stewart gets the Wild on the board with a breakaway goal

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Earlier this month Minnesota Wild forward Chris Stewart admitted he took his trade from the St. Louis Blues to the Buffalo Sabres last season personally.

“Anytime you get traded in this league, I think you have a bit of a chip on your shoulder and want to stick it to them every time you play them,” he told The Star Tribune.

On Saturday afternoon Stewart took advantage of an opportunity to stick it to his former team opening the scoring with his 14th goal of the season.

Maurice calls Blues ‘best team in the league’ ahead of tonight’s game in Winnipeg

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Remember our old Tuesday Tire Pump? (It’s OK if you don’t, it didn’t last that long.) I ask because Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice seems to have utilized the format, albeit on a Thursday — prior to tonight’s key Western Conference clash against the Blues, Maurice put some major air in St. Louis’ whitewalls.

“I think St. Louis is the best team in the League,” Maurice said, per the Post-Dispatch. “So we have to be at our very best, shift-to-shift. They have been tight games because for the most part we have done that, but we’re going to need a little bit better in everything that we do.”

To their credit, the Jets nearly topped the NHL’s best team last Tuesday, when they rallied from a 4-1 deficit in the third period to even things up… only for Barret Jackman to score an outrageous game-winner from center ice with 63 seconds left in regulation:

Many thought that would be a crushing blow to Winnipeg’s playoff chances, but the Jets have recovered nicely, winning two straight while moving back into the final wild card spot (the Jets could also move to within one point of Minnesota with a win tonight and a Wild regulation loss to the Capitals.)

The Jets will need to be at their sharpest to knock off the red-hot Blues, however. St. Louis has won five of its last six and is riding a two-game shutout streak, with back-to-back blankings — on the road, no less — against Dallas and Calgary.

“[The Blues] are so balanced,” Jets winger Blake Wheeler told NHL.com. “They have four lines that can hurt you. So I think that is the biggest key, matching up, getting all four lines against all four [lines] of theirs. I think we match up well.”

Goalie nods: Panthers return ‘our MVP’ Luongo for key tilt versus Wings

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All the latest from the blue paint…

Luongo back for Florida

Roberto Luongo will play for the first time since Mar. 3 when the Panthers host the Red Wings in Sunrise this evening.

Luongo, who’s missed the past six games with a shoulder injury, draws back in looking to keep Florida’s playoff hopes alive. The Panthers went an impressive 3-2-1 during his absence with journeyman Dan Ellis in goal, but know their chances of making the postseason are increased greatly with Bobby Loo in net.

“[Luongo] has been our MVP all year long,” Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said, per NHL.com. “He’s been a great player for us and a great leader and a great character. He’s going to come in tonight and try to do his best.

“He’ll work hard and compete hard and I’m sure the guys will be excited to see him.”

Florida heads into tonight’s action seven points back of Boston (the Bruins take on the Sens in Ottawa tonight), but still has three head-to-head matchups remaining against the B’s.

For Detroit, Petr Mrazek gets the call in net tonight.

Elsewhere…

Sharks at Leafs: Antti Niemi vs. Jonathan Bernier

Canes at Habs: Anton Khudobin vs. Carey Price

Bruins at Senators: Tuukka Rask (probable) vs. Andrew Hammond

Blues at Jets: Brian Elliott vs. Ondrej Pavelec

Caps at Wild: Braden Holtby vs. Devan Dubnyk

Pens at Stars: Marc-Andre Fleury vs. Kari Lehtonen (probable)

Flyers at Flames: Steve Mason vs. Karri Ramo

Jackets at Canucks: (No Columbus starter yet) vs. Eddie Lack

Avs at Coyotes: Semyon Varlamov vs. Louis Domingue