Series (Game 4 of 4)

Minnesota leads 2-1

Game 1: Friday, October 19th
Game 2: Sunday, December 2nd
Game 3: Thursday, March 7th
Game 4: Tuesday, March 26th

Wild 2

(24-30-7, 66 pts)

Blues 1

(35-25-4, 82 pts)

8:00 PM ET, March 26, 2002

Scottrade Center, Saint Louis, Missouri

1 2 3 T
MIN 0 0 22
STL 0 0 11

M. Fernandez (Wild - G): Saves: 26, Save Pct.: .963

A. Laaksonen (Wild - LW): Goals: 1, Assists: 0

P. Dupuis (Wild - RW): Goals: 0, Assists: 0

Laaksonen's penalty-shot goal helps Wild win

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- The Minnesota Wild played a near-flawless game at the wrong time for the St. Louis Blues.

Antti Laaksonen scored on a penalty shot, and Manny Fernandez made 26 saves to lead the Wild to a 2-1 victory over the Blues.

"That's about the best we can play," Wild coach Jacques Lemaire said. "We're playing better and better and it's very satisfying."

The Blues, fighting with Edmonton, Dallas and Vancouver for the final Western Conference playoff position, came out listless.

Minnesota took advantage.

"Every game right now is a playoff game, and we left two (points) on the table tonight," Blues coach Joel Quenneville said. "I don't think we gave them away. There's 10 games left and they're all playoff games as far as we're concerned."

Laaksonen was awarded the penalty shot after he was pulled down by St. Louis defenseman Bryce Salvador at 2:33 of the third period. On the penalty shot, Laaksonen put a back-handed shot past goalie Brent Johnson for his 12th goal.

"You want to make the goalie move before you do and it worked out real well today," Laaksonen said. "You have to think about what you're going to do before you move in, and I did that and scored."

Quenneville agreed with the call by referee Shane Heyer.

"If you put yourself in that spot, they're going to call them a lot more than they should," Quenneville said.

The penalty-shot goal is the second this season for the Wild. Minnesota forward Stacy Roest converted March 2 against Vancouver.

The Wild know their role at this time of the season.

"We definitely want to spoil it for teams trying to make the playoffs," Wild center Jim Dowd said. "We're trying to win as many games as we can."

The Blues have lost three of four, and are 12-16 in one-goal games.

Wes Walz added an empty-net goal for Minnesota at 18:56 of the third period. Scott Young scored his 17th for St. Louis at 19:31 to make it 2-1.

St. Louis outshot Minnesota 14-5 in the third period and 27-18 for the game.

Blues forward Keith Tkachuk didn't play because of an NHL suspension received for a stick-swinging infraction in St. Louis' loss to Chicago on Sunday. "We were fortunate to play them at the right time," Lemaire said.

Game notes

Blues C Doug Weight missed his 12th game because of a sprained right knee and a sprained pelvis. ... Minnesota forward Andrew Brunette extended his scoring streak to nine games with the assist on Walz's goal. ... Johnson started his 12th consecutive game. ... St. Louis' Alexander Khavanov was a healthy scratch and missed his first game of the season. ... Minnesota has four goals in its last 30 power-play opportunities. ... Blues D Marc Bergevin dressed for only the second time in the last 16 games. ... The last time St. Louis allowed a goal on a penalty shot at home was March 24, 1988, against New Jersey when Aaron Broten scored.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press