Sloppy penalties, dried-up top line derails Wild: Key takeaways vs. Blues

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ST. LOUIS — In a must-win game, the Minnesota Wild fell to 5-11 against the Central Division and dropped their third game overall by a 3-1 score to the St. Louis Blues at Enterprise Center. Jon Merrill tied the score midway through the second period, but the Wild then took five penalties the rest of the game, including three in less than six minutes, to completely take themselves out of rhythm. Jake Neighbours and Alexey Toropchenko scored for the Blues, Torey Krug added an empty-netter and Jordan Binnington made 21 saves.

• In seven days, the Wild have gone from being two points back of Nashville to 10 points back of Nashville and eight back of Los Angeles for a playoff spot.

• The Wild host Calen Addison, Nico Sturm, Kaapo Kahkonen, Luke Kunin and the San Jose Sharks on Sunday night.

•  Freddy Gaudreau missed Saturday’s game with an upper-body injury. He has been banged up for a while and left Friday’s practice early. Then, with 7:49 left in the first period, Marcus Johansson limped down the runway after a five-second shift. If neither can play Sunday, the Wild will need to recall a forward unless they opt to play seven defensemen with Dakota Mermis and Alex Goligoski extras.

Penalty trouble takes Wild out of rhythm

The Wild continue to self-sabotage. After a so-so first period in which they overpassed often and generated next to nothing, the Wild controlled play for the first half of the second period until Marco Rossi’s forecheck helped cause a turnover that led to Merrill’s third goal of the season. But 2:08 later, Vinni Lettieri took a needless tripping minor 160 feet away from his net. Instead of checking Scott Perunovich, he tried to steal the puck for the second drawn penalty of the game for the Hibbing native. As is the norm, the NHL’s 29th-ranked penalty kill surrendered the go-ahead goal to Neighbours. John Hynes unsuccessfully challenged goalie interference for a Blues power play, then Declan Chisholm took a penalty for three minors in a row in less than six minutes after Merrill’s goal. Not a good recipe to keep one’s foot on the gas. They then took two third-period penalties, including a too-many-men penalty with 5:26 to go.

Mason Shaw makes way back to NHL

For the first time in 336 days, Mason Shaw plays an NHL game. The beloved Wild forward played for the first time since tearing an ACL for the fourth time in his young hockey career. Shaw, who played nine games for Iowa before the Wild tore up his AHL deal and signed him to an NHL deal last month, played left wing on the fourth line with Jake Lucchini and Lettieri. Shaw got ahead of the play early in the first but tried to force a pass to Lettieri. He was also on the ice for the Toropchenko goal, but it was hardly his fault. Shaw logged 7:06 of ice time, had four shot attempts and two hits. Overall, when put into context of what his past 11 months have been like, it was a special day.

Wild’s top line goes dry at worst time

Remember when the Wild’s top line of Kirill Kaprizov-Joel Eriksson Ek-Matt Boldy was the hottest line in the league? Those were the days. After the three combined for 21 goals and 26 assists in an eight-game span, the trio has gone without a point in the past three games. Not shockingly, the team with little depth scoring beyond those three prolific scorers has gone 0-3 in that stretch. It wasn’t without trying. Kaprizov had three shots and 10 shot attempts against the Blues and Eriksson Ek and Boldy combined for 12.

Three stars

1. Jordan Binnington, Blues: Wasn’t tested a ton, but he was tremendous on a couple of Kaprizov shot attempts and one second-period shift where Brandon Duhaime, Connor Dewar and Ryan Hartman combined for four shots in tight.
2. Jake Neighbours, Blues: Young scorer buried the game-winning power-play goal in the second.
3. Marco Rossi, Wild: Minnesota’s best forward by far. Three shots, seven attempted, three hits.

(Photo:  Scott Rovak / NHLI via Getty Images)

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