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Jay McKee's third-period goal lifts Blues past slumping Wild 3-2

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Not even the return of two offensive stars from injuries could help the Minnesota Wild end their longest winless streak in more than three years.

Jay McKee scored the game-winner in the third period - his first goal in 34 games - and the St. Louis Blues beat the Wild 3-2 on Thursday night. Keith Tkachuk and Martin Rucinsky scored for the Blues, who ended a six-game losing streak in Minnesota. Manny Legace stopped 23 shots for his sixth win in eight starts.

After missing a combined six games with groin injuries, Marian Gaborik and Pavol Demitra both had a goal and an assist for Minnesota. After opening the season 7-0-1, the Wild are winless in five games - their longest stretch since a seven-game streak Feb. 22-March 7, 2004.

"We got six, seven guys that could play better, if not 10," Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire said.

Coming down the slot, McKee took a pass from Ryan Johnson and beat Josh Harding low with a slap shot from between the circles at 7:46.

"It was a perfect pass. One-timer passes, if they come too fast, I can't handle it," McKee said. "He laid it out there just perfectly. With a pass like that you've got to finish."

Lemaire was disappointed that defenceman Brent Burns did not make a better effort to stop Johnson at the blue-line with a hip check, instead of trying to draw an interference penalty.

"He could have made the effort to stay on his feet and try to stop the guy," Lemaire said. "The guy was coming on his side along the boards, he could have still probably get him, even though that he was caught flat-footed. He's got a long reach and he's capable of stopping these guys."

Burns said he was interfered with.

"I got hit, tangled my feet up," he said. "I wasn't trying to draw a penalty there."

The Wild had a number of excellent scoring chances late, but were stonewalled by Legace, whose goals-against-average is 1.89.

"Manny's been our best player. You're not going to be a successful club without your goaltender being one of your top players," McKee said. "He's been our main guy, coming up with some big saves."

His best one was a pad stop on a slap shot by Demitra from the right circle.

Demitra, activated from the injured reserve before the game, missed four straight games because of a strained groin. Gaborik missed two straight with a similar injury, and was bothered by leg issues in his previous two games. He missed 34 games last season with a groin injury.

Lemaire was happy with the two returning Slovakians, who played on a line with Mikko Koivu.

"It was the best line, there's no doubt, by a mile," he said. "They were both skating well, they felt good."

Less than five minutes into the game, they gave Minnesota a 1-0 lead.

A shot by Demitra from the lower right circle deflected off the stick of Jay McClement and popped up in front of Legace. Standing beside the crease, Gaborik whacked the puck in at thigh-level.

"It felt good working together out there," Gaborik said. "I still could feel (the groin) a little, but it's going in the right direction."

The Blues ended an 0-for-18 power-play drought early in the second period when Tkachuk jammed home a loose puck after a shot from Paul Kariya clanked off both posts and landed in the crease behind Harding.

Four minutes later, Rucinsky gave the Blues a 2-1 lead.

Following a turnover by Nick Schultz, Rucinsky picked up a loose puck behind the net, carried out front and backhanded a shot that deflected off the skate of Kurtis Foster and into the net.

Demitra evened the score with 56 seconds left in the second period when his weak shot from the right circle was tipped in by Tkachuk.

St. Louis has yet to lose consecutive games this season, and coach Andy Murray believes his team could have even more points.

"If somebody had told us at the start of the year that after 11 games we'd be 7-4, we'd probably take it," he said, "but at the same token, our feeling is that we should be 9-2."

Notes: St. Louis is 2-8-1 in its last 11 games against Minnesota. ... Brian Rolston was named Minnesota captain for November. Koivu and Schultz will serve as alternate captains. ... McKee's last goal was April 8, 2006. He missed 59 games with injuries last year. ... After sitting out two games with an injured groin, Niklas Backstrom backed up Harding. Nolan Schaefer, the team's backup goalie the last two games, was reassigned to Houston of the AHL. Also sent to the minors was RW Cal Clutterbuck ... St. Louis, whose 89.8 per cent penalty kill was the league's second-best entering the game, killed off two short-handed situations. The Blues have allowed five goals in 51 chances.


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