The Stanley Cup Playoffs officially started for the Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues Thursday night. With goals from Jason Zucker, Matt Dumba, Mikael Granlund, and Jason Pominville, the Wild took a 1-0 series advantage.
The Wild started the game with a few shots on goal off the bat. The Blues were pressing really hard, but Minnesota was very good at breaking up passes and getting into shooting lanes. Jason Zucker would maintain possession of the puck as his teammates went for a line change. He got a low-angle shot on Blues starting goaltender Jake Allen, who coughed the rebound up right back to Zucker. Zucker then tried the other door and put the Wild up to an early 1-0 lead at 2:47 of the opening period. Minnesota may have had the lead and the shot total was tied, but the shot attempts and offensive zone time heavily favored the Blues. Again the Wild were very effective at blocking shots in the first period. Zone exits were brutal for the Wild and it seemed like only a matter of time the Blues were going to score. Except they didn't.
Paul Stastny's hooking minor would give the Wild its first power play of the game. Matt Dumba, out on the second unit, got a pass right into his wheelhouse from Jared Spurgeon for a slap shot blast over Allen's glove. The ice started to tilt towards the Blues end as the Wild started to get a good cycle in the second period. The Wild out-shot the Blues 14-4 in the middle frame. There was some physicality, as Dumba was welcomed to the Stanley Cup Playoffs by Ryan Reaves. Nino Niederreiter got into a skirmish with Kevin Shattenkirk at the end of the period. Thomas Vanek looked really, really good around the Blues' net, especially in the second period. The Zach Parise - Mikael Granlund - Jason Pominville line was getting owned in the Wild end in the first, but started to establish a good cycle in the second.
The Blues were looking to come back in the third period. The Wild have usually been stellar in the third period throughout the regular season, better since the arrival of Devan Dubnyk. The Wild knew this and began to turtle in an attempt to hold the lead. After a long time in the Wild's end, Jaden Schwartz tipped home the Blues' first goal on a Shattenkirk shot from the right point. A Niederreiter holding penalty gave the Blues a chance to tie the game 2 minutes after the Schwartz goal. The Minnesota penalty killing was absolutely superb, allowing just three shots on goal in two short-handed tries, and no goals. Mikko Koivu was pivotal in the late PK as the Wild were extremely efficient clearing the zone. The Blues pulled Allen for the extra attacker with just over a minute remaining in the game. Mikael Granlund would send a shot from the center red line right into the middle of the net. The Wild's lead stretching to 3-1. Game over, right? Not so fast. David Backes took a cross-checking penalty right off the ensuing faceoff to give the Wild another power play. Steve Ott was sent to the dressing room for being a buffoon. After that, Alexander Steen took the puck off the faceoff right to the net and brought the score within one once again. The Wild still on the power play, and with the Blues pulling the goalie again, Jason Pominville nursed the puck into the open net to cinch the win with 20 seconds remaining.
Minnesota would be victorious in a Game One for the first time since 2003 and eight playoff series. It was a huge win in a huge series opener and the Wild take back home ice advantage.
With as much concentration there was on special teams, the Wild won this round. They were 2-for-4 on the power play, though the second goal was with an empty net, and the NHL;s best penalty kill was fantastic in killing off both penalties they took. Minnesota needs to keep the pedal to the metal in the third while having the lead. Going into a defensive shell is not something they should do the moment the teams come out of the locker room to start the final stanza.