As they say in poker, all you need is a chip and a chair, and the Wild’s still at the table.
In what Zach Parise called a series that feels like a “race to two” goals, the Wild beat the St. Louis Blues 2-zip to stave off a sweep and elimination in Devan Dubnyk’s first shutout since Dec. 20 and second of his playoff career.
He made 28 saves and was outstanding in the second and third periods after the Wild gave up no shots in the first 9:57, one in the first 18:09 and four in the first.
Game 5 is 2 p.m. Saturday at Xcel Energy Center.
The Blues just never matched the Wild’s desperation until the third period, and that was after Charlie Coyle and Martin Hanzal supplied the Wild with a 2-0 lead.
Coyle was sensational tonight, and Hanzal was as, Bruce Boudreau called him, a “beast” and maybe the best he has been in a Wild sweater. So many great efforts, but again Marco Scandella was awesome on the back end.
Finally the Wild was rewarded for the effort it’s shown throughout the series. But even still, you see how much effort was exuded tonight, you know it’ll take a ton to get back in this series.
But down 3-1, the Wild did was it sought out to do, and that’s bring the series back to Minnesota.
Pretty sly move by Bruce Boudreau in warmups. He used the Game 3 lines for the most part. But once the game started, he scrambled them to the lines he had in Tuesday’s practice.
For the first time since Nov. 25, Mikko Koivu and Mikael Granlund were separated with Coyle and Granlund skating between Eric Staal, Koivu centering Nino Niederreiter and Zach Parise and Hanzal centering Jason Zucker and Jason Pominville.
“Look it, we’re down 3-nothing,” he said after. “You’ve got to try everything you can try. I mean, we didn’t do that in the regular season at all. But when you’re down 3-nothing, it’s all the tricks are out of the bag type thing.”
Coyle scored his second goal in two games at 16:50 of a one-sided first when Jake Allen strayed from his net after a waved-off icing (the linesmen were in the middle of this game all night long). He coughed up the puck to Coyle and he shot it off the post and in from the right wall.
Finally, for the first time in 214 minutes, 2 seconds in the series, the Wild actually had a lead.
“It felt different,” Coyle said.
Then, after the Wild failed to score on consecutive second-period power plays, Hanzal scored his first playoff goal since May 7, 2012, with a heck of a shot from 34-feet.
“I said to Pierre [McGuire] during the break, whoever gets the next goal is going to be huge,” Boudreau said. “The crowd’s going to get right into it or we’re going to get a little more confident. It was a great release and a great shot.”
It’s impressive the Wild didn’t get defeated during the two days off preceding this game.
“I thought they handled it well amongst themselves,” Boudreau said. “They didn’t let themselves get down. They faced some bad times in the last six weeks and they didn’t get themselves down. Heck, it’s only one game. They still have a tremendous advantage up 3 games to 1. I think we can play a lot better still than we played tonight. It’s going to still be an uphill battle.”
Please check out my gamer tomorrow, my Hanzal notebook which also talks about the futures of Granlund and Niederreiter, my Scott Stevens sidebar and Jim Souhan’s column on Dubnyk’s strong game.
“It was a good to see for him,” Boudreau said. “He works so hard and everybody’s willing to criticize him, but I thought he was real good tonight.”
Here’s some other quotes:
Zach Parise on the win: “We worked hard. We did what we had to do to win. It wasn't always the prettiest of hockey. Again we did what we set out to do which was come here and get one. That was the first step. Well we're alive. That's what we talked about. Just small picture. We got the first step going and we'll prepare again. You've got to start somewhere.”
Hanzal: “The whole team was great tonight. It starts with Duby, he was outstanding. The whole team was just fighting for every battle, every puck. It was a great effort from everybody.”
Coyle: “It feels good. That was our goal to get back home here. We got the job done. Now think about the next one. One game and that’s what we’ll prepare for.”
Alex Pietrangelo: “We just came out slow, I thought we were a little casual to start the game. They were taking advantage of that in the first. We got the pressure on them in the third.”
Obviously we’re not gonna push as hard. I think you see a lot of times, if you’re down a goal in the third period, the other team doesn’t get a ton of shots, so they’re usually just kind of breaks or odd-man rushes or a breakaway because the team’s pushing so hard to try to get a goal. Really the only thing that’s gonna come is something like that, and you kind of saw that on the other side tonight. It’s gonna be important going forward here. But again, if you can’t do it, you can’t throw everything away. You gotta continue to work.
(Seemed like you were tracking well, even with just one shot in 10 minutes…)
Yeah. I’m not gonna say I need a shot in the first minute, but it’s always nice to get one before the shots are 10-0 at the other end. But again, I can’t really control that. You just gotta try to stay sharp, try to get some puck handles in if you can and don’t force it.
(Is this series a race to two goals?)
I don’t know. Again, those are things that I don’t really think about when I play. Again, if we play like that and we go out shift after shift… that was a tough game tonight. It was a hard game, it was a close game, and at the end of the game, you look up at the scoreboard and hopefully you’re ahead. You can’t think of it any other way than that.
(Extra special that first win is a shutout?)
Yeah, it’s nice. Shutouts always feel good and I felt really good tonight. I felt like the guys did a really good job just allowing me to trust exactly what was going on in front of me, exactly what was open, what wasn’t, so that I was able to square up to shots and also hang on to rebounds. I think the guys did a heck of a job for me.
(Still one-game-at-a-time mentality?)
Yeah. We just said coming into this game, we need to win one game and this is the only thing that matters is this one game. This was our Stanley Cup. And that’s gonna be the same thing on Saturday, because if not, it’s over, and we’re not gonna think any further ahead than that. It’s gonna be the exact same approach on Saturday and we’ll see where the score is when the buzzer ends and move forward.
"That's what you're dealing with this time of year, the emotions. You wish you could have taken back the two days and maybe handled it a little bit differently. But the bottom line is, playoff hockey is ... t here's certainly going to be a number of things tonight, areas where we weren't good enough and have to get better and so that's what we'll do moving forward."
Hanzal goal come at tough time?
"Yeah, we had a push, but that's what happens. I thought we were a little loose with our push. We had a couple of bad changes, that one cost us. So we have to push, but obviously a two-goal lead is much different than a one-goal lead. I thought that there was some better signs as far as getting to the offensive zone, handling the puck, getting to the net a little bit more. But again, it didn't feel like our game tonight and we have to do a better job of that."
"Yeah, for me, that's in our preparation. I think that because we weren't ready right from the start, we scrambled all game. We couldn't grab it back. We tried for a period of time in the second period, but like I said, we can't be ready to start the game like that and expect that we're going to have a positive result. We're going to have to be ready. Obviously they've got a little bit of life now and they're going to feel good going back home now. It's going to be a good test. Our next game, we said it right from the start, they didn't get home ice by accident. They didn't have the year that they had by accident. It's a good hockey team over there and we'll be ready for that game."
Need more offense?
"Obviously we didn't score any goals tonight, so we need some offense. Last game we had one five on five goal. Both teams are playing very tight. I think they recognized that. They did a nice job of it tonight. They played well, they played well in their own zone. They pressed real aggressively. I thought as the game went on, we started to deal with that a little bit better. But the biggest thing for me is we had opportunities in the first period to shoot the puck and we're looking for a different play. Not only do we not get a shot, but it leads to a turnover. Certainly I think we can put a lot more pressure at their net. It's something that they're doing to us and we have to find a way to do it to them."
That’s it for me.
Wild’s off Thursday, but we should at least get Boudreau after the Wild flies home. They spent the night.
Russo-Souhan Show is at Hell’s Kitchen at 4:45 p.m. Thursday.
I’ll be on KFAN at 9 a.m. Friday.