There’s no good way to spin a 0-2 series deficit. There is no good way to try and explain a second straight 2-1 loss on home ice in the post-season. Really, there is no good way to score against the Blues and Jake Allen. There just isn’t a good way to explain the Jaden Schwartz game-winning goal. And yet, the game must be recapped.
A phrase that should be retired after this season is the perfect way to explain this game: “Not good enough.”
Game 2 played out very much like Game 1. A scoreless 1st period, an early 2nd period goal by the Blues allows them to clamp down defensively, and the Wild’s own inability to cash in on opportunities creates a 50-50 game in which the Blues just need one shot to steal the game.
Jason Zucker came out of the box after a slashing minor and had Eric Staal with him. Unfortunately, the pass to Staal handcuffed him and the puck slid harmlessly wide of the net guarded by Jake Allen. Minnesota’s penalty kill was good, going 6-for-6 in the series, but at the end of the first period, the Wild’s power play was anything but adequate. It got exactly zero shots on goal on the lone power play towards the end of the 1st period.
The Blues were a much better team in the game and actually played in the offensive zone for stretches of the game. Game 1 hero Joel Edmundson took a shot from the right point that Devan Dubnyk didn’t track. As the puck dipped under his catching glove, St. Louis found itself with yet another early lead.
That early lead allowed Blues head coach Mike Yeo to roll his lines more evenly. That meant a heavy dose of Ryan Reaves. Reaves, with Scottie Upshall, got shifts in the second period to be physical and engage in after whistle shenanigans. The clown show got the Wild off its game.
Minnesota was on their heels as the Dubnyk had to make some key saves to keep the Blues at one. The officiating missed a number of calls on both sides. To have only five combined power plays in this game is an atrocity and it drew the ire of home crowd, as the roaring chant of “Bullshit!” rang through the Xcel Energy Center. Then, Alexander Steen held the stick of martin Hanzal to put Minnesota back on the power play. Then on a clear down the ice, Upshall threw an elbow to the head of Nino Niederreiter to force a two-man advantage.
On the 5-on-3, Staal’s centering pass to Zach Parise was blocked by a prone Vladimir Sobotka. Then Sobotka tried to pick himself up and Kyle Brodziak poked the puck under his teammate right to Parise. Number 11 went bar-down over Allen for the tying tally. Minnesota looked re-engaged in the game like Maverick squeezing the dog tags of Goose and helping turn the tied against the aggressive MIG-28’s.
Minnesota wanted to take its first lead in this series. Marco Scandella found himself at the top of the point for a big wind up, but instead, his stick caught nothing but air. As the Wild re-grouped just inside the Wild line, they got a 4-on-2 rush and Scandella got a second chance and this time ripped a heavy slap shot past Allen, but off the cross bar. Then Upshall hit Erik Haula from behind along the boards and went down in a heap. It should’ve been a boarding call at a minimum, but Referee Brad Meier (you may remember him from such shit shows like the 2014 Wild/Avalanche series) kept the whistles to a minimum.
Intermission hit and the Wild should’ve had the momentum. Nino Niederreiter was dropped down to the fourth line and Coyle was elevated to the top line with Parise and Staal to start the third period. Coyle was a beast as he played physical all night, and showed good speed. Nino helped Joel Eriksson Ek and Chris Stewart on the fourth line and was able to hem the Blues into the defensive zone for an extended shift. Eriksson Ek also got a rare match-up with the Tarasenko line in the third period. Eriksson Ek looked calm and cool as he kept Tarasenko in check.
Minnesota tried for the go-ahead goal. With Erik Haula battling on the wall, Jason Pominville seemingly came out of nowhere and sped past everyone only to be denied by Allen. Charlie Coyle was carrying the puck and got tackled by Upshall from behind and even took out the linesman. Coyle didn’t appreciate his face rubbing the ice surface and shoved Upshall back. The officials sent both to the box for roughing and set up a 4-on-4.
Four-on-four should favor the much more speedy Wild. And with the extra space on the ice, they should be able to find better looks at the net. Jared Spurgeon, who was held up a bit by a Blues player, got a glorious chance only to get stopped again. As the puck moved back up ice after the Spurgeon chance, the puck was moved to Jaden Schwartz fresh off the bench as they crossed into the Wild zone. Both Ryan Suter and Jonas Brodin were off on their gaps and both lunged at Schwartz as he fired a wrist shot.
Dubnyk barely saw it.
It caught the twine in the top corner over Dubnyk’s glove. And there was only 2:27 left in the game. It was an absolute back breaker.
Minnesota tried to muster some magic in the final minute, only to get one final decent shot on goal that ended in the back of the net....except....it was after the clock hit zero.
The story of the series so far is Jake Allen. But even more than that, it’s the Wild just not cashing in on its chances while the opposition just needs one good one to score. And that’s what happens in these 50-50 games. You allow a team to beat you on flukey goals, bad bounces, and the few good looks at the net they do get. If the Wild were to score first, or even just get a lead, it’s a damn good bet that the Blues would start pressing and open up just a little bit, which allows for better and better chances for the Wild.
Except, the Wild haven’t held a single lead in this series, which is now at a grand total of 137:48 of playing time.
The Wild are more than capable of taking two games on the road and evening this series back up. But the odds are stacked highly against them. It was never going to be easy, and so far, it hasn’t been. This Wild team is a good team. They have scoring talent, they have the depth, the health, and the speed to win. They have proved over an 82 game season that they can win and win a lot. But now it’s time to put up or shut up. An 0-2 deficit is no joke, and extremely tough to dig out of, but it can very much be done. the Wild have to work, grind, and get dirty, because there is no good way to dig out of an 0-2 hole.