The Minnesota Wild have defeated the number one seeded St. Louis Blues, and will move on to play the Chicago Blackhawks in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Although their victory was seen as an “upset” by NHL experts, the series was evenly matched, and the Wild took control of the last two games after their embarrassing loss on home ice.
Even after a confidence boost as a result of their 3-0 victory during their first home game of the series, the Wild were unable to keep the momentum going for their second game in Saint Paul, and ended up dropping it by a score of 6-1. Everything was going wrong for the Wild, and the Blues were controlling every part of the game. Even Vezina finalist, Devan Dubnyk, was having an off day, as he was letting easy goals in, which is normally very unlike him. Dubnyk’s poor play lead to a goaltender change, with Darcy Kuemper having the chance to see the ice for the first time in the series. The first period ended with a score of 3-0, and it did not get any better from there for the Wild. Jared Spurgeon netted a shot early in the second period, but it would not ignite any others, and he would ultimately have the only Wild goal of the game. Young gun, Vladimir Tarasenko, had two goals in this game, while Ryan Reaves, David Backes, Paul Stastny and Patrik Berglund also found the back of the net. The game was a complete domination by the Blues, and was a horrible performance by the Wild in front of their home crowd. This would tie the series at 2-2, and allow for the Blues to attempt to get take series lead in St. Louis.
Coming into the game with a lot of embarrassment, the Wild hoped to gain their series lead back at the Scottrade Center. The Wild were quickly awoken when Tarasenko scored the first goal of the game, and his sixth of the series. This would have seemed to be discouraging for the Wild, but Marco Scandella answered just three minutes later, to knot up the game. The rest of this game was controlled by Minnesota, as St. Louis was never able to answer Scandella’s goal. As a result, the Wild kept their momentum, and Nino Niederreiter, Mikko Koivu and Charlie Coyle were each able to score a goal, resulting in a 4-1 win for their team. With this win, the Wild took the 3-2 series lead, and were given the opportunity to wrap up the series at home.
Sunday, April 26 marked both the Wild and Blues’ most important game of the series, as a Minnesota win would allow them to move on and play the Blackhawks, and a Blues win would result in a series tie, and a chance to clinch the series at home. Minnesota started the game right, with a first period goal coming from Zach Parise at an awkward angle. The shaky goal would foreshadow the rest of Jake Allen’s game, as he gave up a poor second goal to Justin Fontaine, before Ken Hitchcock gave Brian Elliot a chance to defend the St. Louis net instead. After the change to Elliot in the second period, the Blues appeared to be more confident, and this allowed TJ Oshie to get his first goal of the series. Unfortunately for the Blues, Oshie’s goal was not enough. Zach Parise answered almost right away in the third period, and Niederreiter scored on an empty net to destroy the Stanley Cup hopes for the Blues.
With the Blackhawks’ defeat of the Nashville Predators on Saturday night, they will also move on to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. This will be the third year in a row that the Wild will play the Blackhawks, and they are looking to finally beat them, as they have a lot more depth to their team this year than they have in the past; and may finally have the recipe for a series victory.