Eight days ago, the Blues weren’t even in the same league as the Minnesota Wild. Things were different Sunday, maybe even much different.
But the result was the same, another Blues loss.
In a tightly contested game played before 16,735 at Enterprise Center, the Blues didn’t make a ton of mistakes — just enough to fall 3-2 to one of the NHL’s hottest teams.
Mikael Granlund’s shot from the slot off a Colton Parayko turnover beat goalie Chad Johnson glove side to snap a 2-2 tie 7 minutes, 43 seconds into the third period. And that was that.
“I tried to be square to it, and it actually rolled on his blade a little bit so it kind of threw me off,” Johnson said. “I don’t know where he really was aiming. … He just chucked it and went high-glove there.
“It’s one of those where you wish you’d make a better read and make a huge glove save or something.”
The Blues had a flurry of chances in the final 40 seconds —cheap st. louis blues jersey
four shots on goal, to be precise — after pulling Johnson. Alexander Steen had the best of the chances with a wrist shot from about 15 feet, but a sprawling Devan Dubnyk made one of those “huge glove saves” for the Wild.
So the Wild, winners of 10 of their last 12, improved to 11-4-2. The Blues, completing a seven-game homestand with a 4-3 record, fell back to .500 overall at 6-6-3.
“Just hard against that team to really generate anything, but I thought we were the better team overall,” Johnson said. “Again, they had some good looks and they capitalized on it.”
After getting outshot 45-16 in that 5-1 loss to the Wild on Nov. 3, St. Louis outshot Minnesota 31-18 Sunday. That’s a net change of 42 shots, in the Blues’ direction, over the two games: They were outshot by 29 on Nov. 3 but outshot the Wild by 13 on Sunday.
They were able to capitalize only twice this time — on a goal in the final minute of the first period by Oskar Sundqvist, and a score midway through the second period by Alex Pietrangelo.
“I thought we deserved to win, but that’s hockey,” said Johnson, making his third consecutive start.
“This was a winnable game,” coach Mike Yeo said. “It was there for us, and we didn’t find a way to win the game. We found a way to lose the game.”
Unfortunately for the Blues, they’ve been on the wrong side of that equation all too often this season. Sunday’s game marked the sixth time they’ve been involved in a one-goal contest. They are 0-3-3 in those six games.
For the most part, last year’s Blues squad knew who to close out games. It’s become a lost art this season.
“It’s a frustrating one,” center Ryan O’Reilly said. “A little lapse in the second and responded. But in the third, they’re just a more veteran team that stuck with it and waited for us to make a little mistake. It’s disappointing. We easily could have got that into OT and we didn’t.”
With 59 seconds left in the opening period, it was “Sunny” side up when Sundqvist beat Dubnyk stick side for his third goal of the season, taking a centering pass that Ivan Barbashev managed to slither under the stick of diving Minnesota defenseman Matt Dumba. Sundqvist, remember, had only two goals in 70 NHL games before this season.
No big deal for Minnesota, which entered Sunday 7-3-1 when surrendering the game’s first goal. The Wild made it 8-3-1 by the end of the afternoon.
Goals by Zach Parise and Joel Eriksson Ek just 25 seconds apart early in the second period gave Minnesota a 2-1 lead. It was reminiscent of that 5-1 debacle eight days earlier when the Wild scored twice within 45 seconds to take a 2-0 first-period lead.
The Sunday goals came so quickly that basically the same Blues shift was on the ice for both — Joel Edmundson and Jordan Schmaltz on defense and Robby Fabbri and Robert Thomas up front. (David Perron, who’s on the same line as Fabbri and Thomas, came on the ice after the first goal, replacing Vladimir Tarasenko.)