After some up-and-down play in the first two periods, the Minnesota Wild got things rolling in the third. In its final home preseason game against the St. Louis Blues, the Wild scored twice in the third to secure a 3-1 victory.
Charlie Coyle tallied his third goal of the preseason, leading off the third period scoring. The play developed in the Wild’s zone, as Jonas Brodin took a hit to move the puck up the right boards to Dany Heatley. The winger calmed the puck and fired it cross-ice to Ryan Suter. The blueliner went back across the ice and found a wide-open Coyle at center ice. The big center cut down the right side, faked to his backhand, slammed on the breaks and slipped the puck behind Blues goaltender Brian Elliott at the 38-second mark of the period.
"He's been outstanding," Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said about Coyle. "We know this kid's personality, the way he trains, his motivation, I was pretty confident we'd see this."
The Wild extended its lead to three on a shorthanded effort by Torrey Mitchell. Keith Ballard cleared the puck the length of the ice and Elliott went behind the net to paly the puck. Mitchell picked the puck off the goalie’s stick, like he was Heull from Breaking Bad, and wrapped it into the empty net.
"We talk about the competition on the top two lines, but we have it throughout the lineup," Yeo said about Mitchell's effort. "We've got more players and more depth. With that, we've got more decisions."
In the first two periods, the game was messy at times, but Niklas Backstrom stood tall in net. The Wild goaltender made 24 saves through two, and a game total of 33.
The only goal Backstrom allowed was a third period shorthanded goal by Jaden Schwartz. The Blues forward fired a slap shot that looked like it might’ve been re-directed on its way past Backstrom.
For St. Louis, Elliott came in at the game’s midway point, relieving Jaroslav Halak. Elliott made eight saves, while Halak turned away 12 shots.
Matt Cooke got the Wild on the board with his first goal of the preseason at the 12:27 mark of the opening period.
The play started in Minnesota’s end, as Kyle Brodziak blocked a Blues point shot. Torrey Mitchell won a wall battle and bumped it up to Brodziak at the red line. The center found a streaking Cooke. The offseason acquisition carried the puck across the blue line and fired a wrist shot on Halak.
That’s when the fun started.
The St. Louis netminder made the initial save, but the puck skied into the air, dropping behind Halak. Mitchell took a whack at it, but Halak, scrambling to find the biscuit, knocked it in with his leg.
One of the things Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said before the game is that he’d like to see an improved special teams. After a slow start, Minnesota’s power play had its best opportunities in the second and third period.
In the second, Kevin Shattenkirk was whistled for shooting the puck over the glass, the Wild’s first unit went to work. Only Brian Elliot’s strong play kept Jason Pominville off the board after receiving a cross-crease saucer pass from Zach Parise.
Nino Niederreiter looked like he extended the Wild’s lead in the third on the man advantage, but the goal was never signaled. Niederreiter was camped out in front of the net, beat Elliot over the blocker. However, there is no video replay during preseason, so the call could not be overturned.
The Wild killed all three of the Blues’ power plays, including scoring on Mitchell’s goal.
The Wild closes out preseason and its home-and-home series in St. Louis on Friday.
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