ST. LOUIS — Following a split in St. Paul, the Wild and St. Louis Blues will take their best-of-7 series to Enterprise Center on Friday night when the clubs play Game 3.
The series is tied 1-1, with the Blues holding home-ice advantage, courtesy of a Game 1 shutout win Monday night at Xcel Energy Center.
One win over the next two games for Minnesota, however, would re-establish a home-ice edge for the Wild before the series comes back to the State of Hockey Tuesday for Game 5.
But there’s plenty to settle before things get that far.
After being blanked for just the second time this season, Minnesota responded with a six-goal outburst in a 6-2 win in Game 2. The Wild’s six-goal game tied a franchise playoff record for goals in a game.
The Wild did it by scoring two power-play goals, tallying three first-period markers and building an eventual 4-0 cushion early in the second period.
St. Louis pushed late in the second and early in the third, drawing as close as 4-2 on a goal by Vladimir Tarasenko, before Kirill Caprizov scored his second and third goals of the night to finish off the first-ever postseason hat trick in Wild history.
“We talked after right [Game 1] what he’s going to have to do or what are we going to have to do to free him up. We’re not going to have to do anything. He’s just going to do what he does. He’s just going to play hard,” said Wild coach Dean Evason. “Sure, he’s got two, three people around him. They’re trying to hit him. He’s just going to play through it. He just stays the course, just goes about his business.”
Minnesota made some subtle tweaks to both its power play and its penalty kill after both units struggled in the Game 1 loss.
The Wild went 0-for-6 in that game, including 0-for-3 in the first period, while allowing the Blues to score twice with the man advantage and another just two seconds after a power play expired.
Minnesota flipped that script in Game 2, scoring two power-play goals in the opening 20 minutes, while limiting the Blues to 1-for-5 on the power play, below their season averages both overall and on the road, where St. Louis was among the NHL’s most potent.
“The bottom line is we shot the puck and we got to the net,” Evason said. “You see our goals. We were around the net. We were committed to getting there.
“But with our power play, when we’ve had success, any power play, you shoot the puck and you get to the net. We caught a couple of bounces where in Game 1 we didn’t. They caught the bounces on their tape in Game 1 and we were fortunate to catch them in Game 2.”
When it comes to the kill, Evason said he’d still like to see the team take fewer penalties. But the infractions taken in Game 2 were more in the flow of the game and less retaliatory, which is a start.
The Wild was one of the best 5-on-5 teams in the NHL during the regular season and outplayed the Blues there even in a losing effort in Game 1.
“We’d certainly like to get that number down,” Evason said. “The more opportunity you give that group on the power play the more it’s going to bite us in the butt.”
goaltender Marc-André Fleury won his 91st career playoff contest in Game 2, making 32 saves on 34 shots.
While healthy up front, the Blues are dealing with a bevy of injuries on their backend that forced the club to make an emergency call up from their American Hockey League affiliate in Springfield.
Marco Scandella has been dealing with a lower-body injury sustained late in the regular season and has not played in the series. Nick Leddy was hurt in Game 1 and did not play on Wednesday, while Robert Bortuzzo blocked a shot with his face early in Game 2 and did not return.
All three could miss Game 3, which necessitated the recall of Steven Santini from Springfield, where he played in 66 games with the Thunderbirds this season.
Santini did not play an NHL game in 2021-22, but skated in five games last year, including a pair of playoff games. He has 119 career games of experience in the NHL, tallying five goals and 17 assists in those games.