EditorsNote: Corrects spelling of Zack
Schwartz scores twice, Blues KO Wild
ST. LOUIS — Despite their success to start this season, coach Mike Yeo knows there is at least one part of the St. Louis Blues’ game that can get better.
The Blues came into their game Saturday night against the Minnesota Wild tied for 25th in the NHL on the power play, converting just 16 percent of their chances with a man-advantage.
They took steps toward correcting that problem against the Wild, scoring three power-play goals in a 6-3 win that moved them into the top spot in the NHL standings with 35 points.
Paul Stastny, Jaden Schwartz and Sammy Blais scored on the power play, with Blais recording the first goal of his NHL career in his fifth game.
Schwartz’s first of two goals capped a three-goal first period for the Blues, and now has 13 goals for the season.
Yeo made some changes to the Blues’ power-play units after the team was 0-of-3 on Friday night in getting shut out 2-0 by the Predators, leaving them with just six power-play goals in 38 opportunities in their previous 13 games.
“We’ve been struggling to score goals,” Yeo said. “I think five on five I’d put us against any team in the league thus far. I think that’s been the source of our success but we know that special teams have to get better and we believe we have the personnel to do it; we just haven’t been able to find the right combination so it was an attempt to fix that.”
The Blues had eight power-play opportunities in the game, and also got a short-handed goal from Kyle Brodziak. One negative for the Blues was that they also gave up a pair of power-play goals as well as a short-handed goal by Charlie Coyle, his first goal of the season.
The Wild’s other goals came from Zack Mitchell and Eric Staal in the third period.
Schwartz thought the key was the Blues getting so many chances, and finally being to take advantage of them.
“We had a lot of chances,” Schwartz said. “We did a better job of executing. Our goals weren’t pretty, but little plays in tight. Your confidence gets a little better and hopefully getting some goals today can carry over.”
The Blues got a quick start, getting first-period goals from Stastny, Dmitrij Jaskin and Schwartz and forcing the Wild to chase the game.
“You never want to go down three to this team,” said Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk. “One-nothing is fine. Obviously you don’t want to give up a second one but we did a good job hanging in there and coming back but it seemed like every time we made a play to get it within a goal or two goals, we do did something that brought us back out of it. We could probably look at a couple of specific plays that took us out of that one.”
The loss was only the second in regulation for the Wild in their last nine games.
“I just don’t think we played anywhere near the capabilities that we’re capable of playing,” said Wild coach Bruce Boudreau.
The win for the Blues was their 12th in a row on the second night of back-to-back games, a reality that neither Yeo or Schwartz could easily explain.
“It’s a credit to our players number one,” Yeo said. “You have to be smart. In back-to-back games, no matter what the situation is you are not going to have the same juice in the tank. You have to use your head and play smart and our guys do that.”
Schwartz thought at least this night the reason was the carry over from losing on Friday night, and being able to get the early goals to build the lead against the Wild.
“With the performance we had on Friday- when you don’t play your best you want to come back hungry,” Schwartz said. “You don’t want to lose two in a row at home on the weekend.”
Nino Niederreiter failed to score for the Wild, snapping his six-game streak with at least one goal, which tied the franchise record set by Brian Rolston in 2008.
NOTES: RW Sammy Blais replaced RW Magnus Paajarvi in the Blues lineup. Paajarvi hurt his foot blocking a shot in Friday night’s game, but the injury is not believed serious. ... D Carl Gunnarsson was a healthy scratch by the Blues for the third consecutive game. ... The Wild will play their third consecutive division game on Monday night at Winnipeg. ... The Blues are off until Wednesday night, when they will host the Anaheim Ducks.