Staal’s hat trick leads surging Wild past slumping Blues 8-3
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Eric Staal had three goals and two assists to combine with linemates Mikael Granlund and Jason Zucker for 14 points and propel the surging Minnesota Wild to an 8-3 victory on Tuesday over the St. Louis Blues, who lost their seventh straight.
Staal notched his 14th career hat trick, his first in more than five years. By scoring 13 times in 13 games in February, Staal raised his season total to 33 goals to move into the top five in the NHL.
Granlund had two goals and two assists and Zucker added a goal and four assists for the Wild, who have won five in a row overall and are 19-2-5 in their last 26 home games since Nov. 14. In three games since coach Bruce Boudreau put them together, the Zucker-Staal-Granlund line has a staggering 11 goals and 15 assists.
Ryan Suter had three of his team-leading 37 assists, Mikko Koivu and Jared Spurgeon also scored, and the Wild’s eight goals matched their franchise record.
Vladimir Tarasenko scored twice and Alex Pietrangelo added a goal for the Blues, but coach Mike Yeo pulled goalie Jake Allen for Carter Hutton after Allen gave up three goals on eight shots in the first period. Allen has allowed at least three goals in four of his last five starts, and the Blues have been outscored 29-10 during their skid while taking only one of the seven games to overtime.
Until Pietrangelo scored just 15 seconds into the second period to cut the lead to 3-2, the Blues played a stretch of 171 minutes and 52 seconds where all they had was two goals by Tarasenko.
The Blues played without center Paul Stastny, who was sent to Winnipeg for a first-round draft pick on Monday just before the trade deadline. This has been a brutal month for a team that was on top of the Central Division or near it for most of the season until its recent slide.
The Wild have zoomed in to fill that void, climbing into third place with this fabulous last week in February, and the 33-year-old Staal has led the charge. He was originally credited with a fourth goal, midway through the first period, but the official scorers later credited that one to Granlund on a tip near the net.
Staal’s last goal was a sure sign of a guy with a hot stick, with a poke that hit the left post. The puck zipped over to the right post and bounced back in front for Staal to knock in the second try. He flashed a sly smile as he celebrated with his teammates.
Zucker reached a career-high 51 points (26 goals, 25 assists) with 19 games to go in the regular season. He has 11 points in his last six games, and Granlund has nine points in his last four games.
Wild: Play at Arizona on Thursday, followed by a game at Colorado on Friday.