Last Thursday began the First Round Stanley Cup Playoff series between the Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues.  After three intense games, the Wild currently lead the series two games to one.  Many players on both of the teams have stepped up their games to playoff intensity, and the series should finish off with highly physical and exciting games.
The Wild took game one of the series in St. Louis by a score of 4-2.  Jason Zucker of the Wild did not hesitate to jumpstart his team by giving them an early lead, as he scored just 2:47 into the game.  Zucker’s goal was extremely important for the Wild as it gave them the quick start they needed in the series.  Despite the score, the Blues were not discouraged as they seemed to control the rest of the first period, but could not find the back of the net.  In the second period, the Wild appeared to take back the momentum of the game when young defenseman, Matt Dumba, scored his first career postseason goal to give the Wild a 2-0 lead. Neither team was able to score again until the third period, when Jaden Schwartz scored to cut the Blues’ deficit to one.  Still down by a goal late in the third, Blues Coach Ken Hitchcock decided to pull goalie, Jake Allen, in attempt to tie the game. Mikael Granlund scored an empty-net goal, almost immediately, to give the Wild the 3-1 lead.  After the goal, David Backesillustrated clear frustration when he crosschecked goal-scorer Granlund off of the faceoff, for which he received a penalty.  Backes’ undisciplined and untimely penalty may have cost his team the chance to come back in the game.  After scoring a shorthanded goal to cut the Wild lead back to one, while still killing off the Backes penalty, the Blues once again pulled Allen to even up the skaters to 5-on-5.  Unfortunately for the Blues, Jason Pominville took advantage of the empty net and scored his first goal of the series, putting the game out of reach.
After dropping game one at home to the Wild, the St. Louis Blues were not discouraged, and came out strong for game two.  The Blues were able to regain confidence and won by a score of 4-1, with Vladimir Tarasenko sending the St. Louis fans into a frenzy by netting a hat trick after producing no shots on goal in game one.  Despite what the score suggests, the Wild played well, but were unable to find the back of the net.  The Wild had several scoring chances where they just couldn’t finish, most notably when Charlie Coyle hit the crossbar, and Backes swept the puck off of the goal line, which allowed the Blues to keep their 2-1 lead.  The game was tightly contested well into to the third period, with a win seeming within reach for the Wild until Patrik Berglund scored to give the Blues a 3-1 lead with just 1:58 left in the game.  The Blues added an empty-net goal by Tarasenko to give him the hat trick and the Blues a game two victory.
After a tough second game, the Wild were excited to be back in Minnesota for game three, and gain their highly noted “home-ice advantage” at the Xcel Energy Center.  The physicality of the series seemed to really rise in this game, as the Blues attempted to bring intimidation to St. Paul; a strategy that they had hoped would get the Wild off their game and result in a win.  Unfortunately for the Blues, the Wild ignored the Blues’ players’ attempts to start fights after the whistle and were able to win game three in a dominating fashion, by a score of 3-0.  The Wild’s first-line (Zach Parise, Granlund and Pominville), were a big factor in the Wild win, as Parise and Pominville both scored a goal, and Granlund added two assists.  Although the Wild seemed to dominate the whole game, they were unable to score until Pominville found the back of the net with 5:52 remaining in the second period.  Just two minutes later, the Wild were able to take a breather going into the second intermission when Parise scored the second goal of the game, igniting the crowd into a frenzy.  Although the third period remained scoreless until Nino Niederreiter’s empty net goal, the Wild continued their dominance until the end of the game, shutting out the Blues for the first time since 2008; and gaining the 2-1 series lead.
The fourth game of the series will take place in Saint Paul at 9:30 p.m. ET on April 22.  It can be viewed on NBCSN or Fox Sports North.

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