ST. PAUL, Minn. — Jaden Schwartz scored with 2:27 remaining during a 4-on-4 situation and the St. Louis Blues beat the Wild 2-1 on Friday night to leave Minnesota with a 2-0 lead in the first-round series.
Joel Edmundson had the first goal for the Blues after winning Game 1 in overtime, Jake Allen was as steady as ever in the net again with 23 saves and coach Mike Yeo devised another shrewd plan for his former team.
Zach Parise scored again for the Wild, on a 5-on-3 late in the second period, but goalie Devan Dubnyk simply hasn’t been as dominant as Allen at the other end. Screened by David Perron, Dubnyk didn’t track Schwartz’s deep shot from the slot . He made 20 saves.
Game 3 is in St. Louis on Sunday.
Charlie Coyle and Scottie Upshall were sent to the penalty box for dual roughing penalties, triggering the 4-on-4 and increasing the Wild’s night-long frustration with the officiating crew. Coyle was pinned down by Upshall during contact along the boards and lost his helmet in the ensuing scrap after fighting back. Coyle actually sent a puck past Allen in the final flurry, but it came after the horn to punctuate the litany of near-misses for Minnesota.
Mikko Koivu’s deflection hit the post and Jason Pominville’s unabated drive to the net was denied by Allen, to name two of them in the third period.
Game 2 was feistier and uglier than Game 1, though the same late-game drama stayed intact. Another difference was a steep drop in shots on goal by the Wild.
With Yeo now directing strategy, using to his advantage nearly five years of insight into the Wild’s personalities, preferences and tendencies, the Blues kept up their stifling defence by packing those big bodies in the middle of their zone.
With a six-man blue line group averaging 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, buoyed by the return of the hard-nosed Robert Bortuzzo to the lineup, the Blues blocked 19 shots and began to create some frustration for the Wild. Former Blues left wing Chris Stewart tried to engage a few times with agitator Ryan Reaves, his close friend and fellow wedding groomsman.
Jason Zucker had a breakaway in the first period after exiting the box for his slashing penalty, but his errant pass to a streaking Eric Staal was fumbled along with a scoring chance as good as any of the dozens they generated in Game 1 while outshooting the Blues an overwhelming 52-26.
With the Blues content to hang back and rely on their grit and their goalie, the Wild decisively won the faceoff battle again and spent the majority of the time in the opponent’s zone. The passing wasn’t as crisp, though, and their attack didn’t quite buzz as much as it did two days earlier. Just a few minutes after Edmundson’s long-distance one-timer , Marco Scandella’s uncontested wrist shot banged off the crossbar and went straight up.
Just because the Blues played conservatively and patiently didn’t mean they were always disciplined, though. Alexander Steen took a holding penalty, Upshall was called for elbowing and all of a sudden the Wild had a 5-on-3 advantage for 85 seconds with the second intermission fast approaching.
With Jay Boumeester stretched out on his stomach, Staal’s pass was stymied. Kyle Brodziak, the former Wild centre, tried to clear the loose puck. It went straight to Parise, who knocked it in for his second goal in as many games .
Edmundson accomplished that feat, too, on the heels of his one-timer on Wednesday night that gave the Blues the first game. In 154 career games, including 18 in the playoffs, the 23-year-old defenceman has just seven goals. Three have been in the post-season.
NOTES: Four members of the U.S. women’s hockey team, Twin Cities area natives Hannah Brandt, Kelly Pannek, Lee Stecklein and Maddie Rooney, led the crowd in the “Let’s Play Hockey” chant before the opening faceoff. They won the gold medal at the world championships last weekend. The announced attendance of 19,404 was the third-largest in Wild playoffs history. … Bortuzzo (upper body injury), who missed Game 1 and the last five games of the regular season, replaced rookie Jordan Schmaltz. … Blues rookie RW Zach Sanford made his post-season debut, with Jori Lehtera scratched and Steen centring the third line.