Blues gain in West playoff race with OT win against Wild


ST. PAUL — Ryan O’Reilly scored 3:43 into overtime, and the St. Louis Blues extended their lead for fourth place in the Honda West Division playoff race with a 5-4 win against the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center on Thursday.

O’Reilly scored twice, Torey Krug and Jordan Kyrou each had two assists, and Ville Husso made 26 saves for St. Louis (23-19-6), which swept the back-to-back in their three-game set with their fourth straight win. They will play again here Saturday.

“I was kind of struggling a bit early on in the game and wasn’t really creating much,” O’Reilly said. “But to be able to come through and get one to kind of seal the two points for us, it definitely feels very good.”

Kirill Kaprizov tied the game 4-4 for the Wild with his 23rd goal with 52 seconds remaining in the third period.

Kevin Fiala had a goal and two assists, Victor Rask had a goal and an assist, and Cam Talbot made 16 saves for Minnesota (31-14-4), which has lost two in a row after a seven-game winning streak.

St. Louis is fourth in the eight-team West, five points ahead of the fifth-place Arizona Coyotes with two games in hand for the final Stanley Cup Playoff berth from the division.

The Vegas Golden Knights, Colorado Avalanche and Wild have qualified for the playoffs. The Golden Knights are six points ahead of the Avalanche and Wild for first place.

“I think you go through ups and downs with that throughout the season, depending on the situation and what’s going on with your team at the time. But right now, guys are feeling good and we’re a pretty confident team,” Blues coach Craig Berube said. “We’re really doing a good job, the guys are really playing together as a team out there. … Guys are really backing each other up and cheering each other on. We’ve got real good team spirit right now.”

The Wild clinched their playoff berth Saturday with a 6-3 win at the San Jose Sharks. 

“I mean, [St. Louis is] a very desperate hockey club right now with the situation that they’re in,” Wild defenseman Matt Dumba said. “I think we’re right where we need to be. Clinched a playoff spot, and just working the kinks out of our game so we’re ready come playoffs. It’s all preparation for that now.” 

Sammy Blais beat Talbot with a rebound off an initial shot from Krug to give the Blues a 1-0 lead at 3:14 of the first period.

Tyler Bozak made it 2-0 with a shorthanded goal on a partial breakaway, capitalizing on a Wild turnover in the neutral zone at 7:34 of the second period. Marco Scandella increased the lead to 3-0 at 10:55.

“I’ve always said, ‘When you’re confident, the game just seems easier out there,'” said Bozak, who has nine points (two goals, seven assists) in his past nine games. “The plays seem to happen more. You seem to get more bounces. I don’t know what it is. It’s not easy to get confidence. You have to work for it and it’s pretty easy to lose it. We’ve got to keep working hard, keep improving and can’t take any steps back.”

Joel Eriksson Ek cut it to 3-1 at 17:01 with a snap shot for his 17th goal of the season.  

“He was an absolute beast,” Wild coach Dean Evason said. “It’s incredible. His drive, his will, his size, his strength. … He’s just a hard, hard guy to play against. We said in there, all of us ex-players, that he would be a tough guy to play against, frustrating as [heck].”

Fiala made it 3-2 with a shot to the corner at 2:21 of the third period before O’Reilly scored a power-play goal at 6:16 to extend the lead to 4-2. 

The Blues have scored at least one power-play goal in nine straight games (11-for-25, 44.0 percent). 

Rask brought the Wild within 4-3 at 15:21 with a wrist shot from the right circle.

“What we saw last night was a great two periods and not a great third. Tonight we saw two terrible periods and a great third,” Evason said. “It’s encouraging that we know it’s there. … We were awful at the start of the hockey game, and they took advantage of it. 

“So, no, there’s no concern, obviously. It’s two teams playing hard, and if you cut it up it’s probably pretty even.”

NOTES: St. Louis forward Vladimir Tarasenko was a late scratch with a lower-body injury sustained Wednesday. “He is day to day, it’s nothing worse than that,” Berube said. … Blues defenseman Colton Parayko had two shots on goal and three blocked shots in 24:47 of ice time after missing two games with an upper-body injury. … Eriksson Ek has seven points (four goals, three assists) in an NHL career-high seven-game point streak. … With an assist, Wild forward Marcus Foligno has four points (two goals, two assists) in a three-game point streak. … Minnesota defenseman Jared Spurgeon had an assist, his 300th NHL point in his 701st NHL game. … Fiala has nine points (four goals, five assists) in the past six games.

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