ST. PAUL, Minn. – Guillaume Latendresse just needed a change of scenery.
Latendresse scored twice to help the Minnesota Wild beat the St. Louis Blues 4-3 on Saturday night for their second straight victory. Shane Hnidy and Kim Johnsson also scored, and Niklas Backstrom stopped 15 shots to improve to 7-1-1 in his last nine home games.
With his team clinging to a one-goal lead, Latendresse put a rebound past a sprawled Chris Mason with less than four minutes left for his seventh career two-goal game.
“That’s what Guillaume has got to do, find himself out front and pick up loose pucks. He stuck with it,” Minnesota coach Todd Richards said.
Acquired Nov. 23 from Montreal, Latendresse has six goals in 13 games for Minnesota, including four in his last four outings. He scored 46 goals in his first three years in Montreal, but had three points in 23 games for his hometown Canadiens this season.
“I didn’t have a lot of ice time. I was a third-line or fourth-line player playing maybe 10 minutes a game. I was averaging 15 goals a year,” he said. “Here I get the opportunity to play with some great players. I get a lot of ice time, so I’m happy to have the opportunity to produce.”
With Mason pulled, Patrik Berglund scored for St. Louis with 1:40 to play.
Andy McDonald and David Perron also scored for the Blues, which lost for the first time in four games and for just the seventh time in 18 road games.
St. Louis, which completed its first franchise sweep of Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary on the same trip earlier this week, in part, by going 5-for-10 on the power play, was 0-for-4 with the man advantage.
“It was the kind of game where whoever got that next goal, it was going to be a big one, and they found a way to get that one,” said St. Louis coach Andy Murray.
Twenty-four of Minnesota’s 38 games have been one-goal affairs, most in the NHL. The Wild is 14-7-3 in those contests. Its 14 wins tie Pittsburgh for most in the league.
The Wild, which won just 10 of its first 25 games, has a franchise-best nine December wins. The team record for wins in a month is 10 in March 2007.
“We’re not the most skilled team in the league, but we want to be the hardest working team,” Backstrom said.
Latendresse gave Minnesota a 1-0 lead late in the first period, taking a pass from Greg Zanon at the St. Louis blue-line, splitting two defenders and beating Mason with a slapshot.
McDonald scored midway through the second.
With the teams skating four a side, McDonald took a pass from Eric Brewer just outside the Minnesota blue-line. He carried left into the Wild zone, cut across to the right circle and came back across the crease – turning around defenceman Nick Schultz in the process – before beating Backstrom with a high wrist shot.
Hnidy took a drop pass from Antti Miettinen, slowly skated into the left dot and beat Mason with a wrist shot early in the final period for a 2-1 lead.
“Shane Hnidy can really shoot a puck. What he showed on the play was just great patience,” Richards said. “I think the other player that makes a great play is (Miettinen). He goes right to the front of the net, he stops and Mason never sees it.”
Johnsson gave Minnesota a two-goal cushion at 8:59, picking up a loose puck in the neutral zone to start a two-on-one with Andrew Ebbett. From the left circle, Johnsson fired a shot that beat Mason under the left arm.
“We got away from our structure a little bit and gave them too many easy opportunities. Some bad changes and some bad puck support all over the ice kind of led to some of their goals,” said Blues defenceman Erik Johnson.
Perron cut it to 3-2 at 13:04, fighting off Schultz and pushing a rebound past a downed Backstrom. After seven games without a point, Perron has two goals and an assist in his last three games.
NOTES: St. Louis fell to 8-2-5 in one-goal games. … Wild RW Chuck Kobasew left the game in the third period with a knee injury. “It doesn’t sound good,” Richards said. … Wild enforcer Derek Boogaard took part in pre-game warmups, but was a late scratch with a minor injury suffered Wednesday. Richards called it a “maintenance decision.” … St. Louis starts a four-game homestand Sunday against Buffalo. The Blues are 6-11-2 at Scottrade Center.