Tarasenko, Blues dismantle Wild 6-1 to even series
Apr. 23, 2015
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — The St. Louis Blues stopped chasing the Minnesota Wild and revived their checking style.
After a listless performance the previous game, the Blues suddenly have their edge back. The Wild will have to quickly rediscover theirs.
Vladimir Tarasenko scored twice, and the Blues sent Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk to an early exit during a dominating 6-1 victory in Game 4 to even the Western Conference quarterfinal series Wednesday night.
"When we check, we score. It looks like we've joined the tournament now, and we're dialed in," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "So we've got home ice back, we're dialed into our game and hopefully we're going to be hard to play against."
Kevin Shattenkirk had three assists and Jake Allen made 17 saves to help the Blues end a nine-game postseason road losing streak that lasted more than three years. Patrik Berglund had a goal and an assist, and David Backes and Paul Stastny scored for the first time in the series. So did fourth-line right wing Ryan Reaves, whose one-timer from the point got past Dubnyk's glove to give the Blues the early lead.
By the middle of the first period, they were ahead 3-0 after being shut out in Game 3.
"We had to assert ourselves," Backes said, adding: "We've just got to stop this trend of every other game."
Game 5 is in St. Louis on Friday night.
"We may have been a little cocky. We felt really good and rightfully so," Wild left wing Zach Parise said. "We felt good about the way we played the last game. I don't know if we thought it was going to be an easy game or if we thought they were going to pack it in, but that wasn't the case at all."
Jared Spurgeon's power-play goal early in the second period gave the Wild and their revved-up fans some life after the letdown of the first half of the first period. But less than 2 minutes later, Stastny snapped a shot on the rush from the circle on Dubnyk's right that slipped between the goalie's pads. Dubnyk gave up six goals on 17 shots and was pulled with 3:10 left in the second period after Berglund put the Blues up 6-1.
"I think none of us expected this to be a sweep in our favor or a short series, by any means," Dubnyk said. "We knew it was going to be a battle, and that's what its turning out to be."
Wild coach Mike Yeo said he considered pulling Dubnyk after the fifth goal, Tarasenko's second.
"They were on top of their game, and we were not even close to being on top of ours. Once they got a couple, we got even worse," Yeo said.
The Wild set a dubious franchise record for most goals allowed in a playoff game.
The Wild finally drew a penalty, hooking on Nino Niederreiter to end a stretch of 94-plus minutes without one, but the story of their sudden demise was about the disappearance of the stifling defense they flustered the Blues with in Game 3. Instead of clogging the shooting lanes and forcing the play to the perimeter, the Blues had their way in the Wild zone and sent plenty of uncontested shots Dubnyk's way.
Tarasenko had a hat trick in Game 2 but was held without a shot on goal in the other two contests.
"Our best players played well. Our whole lineup played well I think," Shattenkirk said. "We got something from everyone tonight."
The Blues had spent the better part of the series trying to lure the Wild into a grind-it-out, drop-the-gloves kind of game, while the Wild confidently stuck to their speed-based style without so much as a shove in return. Hitchcock shuffled his left wings and returned Steen to his familiar line with the captain Backes and T.J. Oshie, and the Blues brought all the energy they were missing Monday night to the ice from the opening faceoff.
"It's a series. It's not a regular-season game where you're moving on to a different team," Allen said. "We've still got three more games against these guys, so we needed to make a statement."
NOTES: Six Blues players had their first point of the series. ... This was the most goals the Wild allowed since a 7-2 loss to Pittsburgh on Jan. 13, the day before they dealt for Dubnyk. ... Minnesota State coach Mike Hastings led the crowd in the "Let's Play Hockey!" chant before the opening faceoff. Backes played at Minnesota State, in Mankato about 85 miles southwest of the Twin Cities.