The Wild wasn’t kidding when it prepped its players before the series to know what to expect from Steve Ott and to just skate away laughing at him.
There was a lot of laughing at the Blues agitator again tonight.
One game after Jason Zucker and Jordan Schroeder laughed in his face, two games after Chris Stewart laughed in his face, Matt Dumba did the same tonight when Ott almost landed in the Wild bench after missing a check on Jonas Brodin and 19,165 fans laughed in his face when Ott had a chance to actually do something useful by scoring on a third-period breakaway and instead lost the puck.
So, of course, on his last shift, Ott assaults Marco Scandella and Jared Spurgeon to earn a second 10-minute misconduct in three games. He literally went out scratching and clawing, according to goalie Devan Dubnyk.
“We’ve got a lot of hockey to play, so I don’t want to comment yet,” Dubnyk said of Ott before humorously going on to comment. “That’s two games now – both wins – that he’s ended up with a 10-minute misconducts at the end of the game, so we know why he’s out there and that’s what he’s looking to do. Our guys are fully capable of protecting ourselves, and we’ll stick together and get out of the way of him. That’s what he’s out there to do. Lot of hockey to play, so we won’t comment on any of that.”
I asked why he raced out of the crease to referee Jean Hebert during the Ott-Spurgeon incident: “He’s scratching at Spurgy’s face,” Dubnyk said. “He’s on the ice with his glove in his face and I could see his fingers moving, he’s pulling at his mouth and his nose and eyes. I don’t want our guy to end up hurt with his eyes or whatever. And the ref was standing there, so I just told him to grab, to get his hand. I could see his hand scratching at his face, so I just don’t want Spurgy to get hurt and I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s what he was trying to do.”
So, as the Blues were showing their frustration during and late in a 3-0 Game 3 loss that put them behind 2-1 in the best-of-seven series, the Wild skated out with zero penalties for the first time ever in a home playoff game.
That had to also be frustrating for the Blues because not only did they lose their discipline, they were so on their heels tonight that they couldn’t draw a penalty. It felt like the Wild had the puck the entire night skating by flat-footed Blues players.
Vladimir Tarasenko, coming off a Game 2 hat trick, was minus-3 with no shots on goal as coach Mike Yeo’s intent tonight was to get Zach Parise-Mikael Granlund-Jason Pominville out against Alex Steen-Jori Lehtera-Tarasenko as much as he could.
As I tweeted in the first period, the Granlund line was so-so close to breaking through after a couple tough games in St. Louis. The line finally did in the second when Pominville and Parise scored 2:05 apart. Nino Niederreiter added an empty-netter and Dubnyk only had to make 17 saves for the third playoff shutout in Wild history.
Now, the Wild plays Game 4 on Wednesday ahead 2-1 in a series for the first time ever at home.
“We were a lot better with the puck tonight in the offensive zone, holding onto it a little longer, making some plays,” Parise said. “We were better off the rush, attacking the middle of the ice. Teams look fast when you can do that. I thought we were tough to play against.”
On the Pominville goal after Granlund flew by Tarasenko and lost the puck on a nice Carl Gunnarsson poke-check, Parise said, “It was a little bit of a broken play. It was smart of him not to do a fly by past the post and stay there. I think everyone got a little puck focused and I saw him by himself.”
On his goal, Parise said, “I tried to pull it through Bouwmeester’s feet about four times with no success. Finally, I just tried to shoot it and caught up him upstairs.
On the 17-shot defensive performance, Parise said, “It feels good. I thought our forwards did a good job coming back and pushing them into our D and our D got up and had some good gaps. Once we do that we can get back on the counterattack. That was a big part of the reason we had the puck a lot.”
On his line: “It feels good. I wasn’t too excited about the way our first two games went in St. Louis. I thought we could do a lot better. Fortunately tonight we scored. That’s the big difference. We had more puck time, more zone time, better rushes -- just better plays. And I know the three of us wanted to have a better performance than we had in St. Louis.”
On the defensive performance, Dubnyk said, “I’ve seen that a few times actually this last half of the year. I’ve seen some pretty incredible performances here at home by us, and that ranks right up there with it. There just weren’t any mistakes. It was just line after line supporting each other, making good plays and being there for each other.”
On the home crowd: “Certainly didn’t disappoint. It was crazy toward the end of the second period there. You can’t hear anything, you can’t hear whistles, you can’t hear the pucks hitting sticks. You’re moving around deaf. We fed off of it.”
On the Wild’s speed: “That’s when we’re at our best. That’s the strength of our team. We play like that, I don’t think there’s one team that can avoid turning the puck over because we’re there. Every time a pass is made, our guy’s there. We’re reading off each other, we’re all moving our feet. We’re right there, so it forces turnovers and we try to capitalize after that. that was impressive. Every single line, every pairing was on top of the puck.”
Charlie Coyle, who played another strong game and took some punches in the second by David Backes, said, “You can tell they got frustrated with stuff after the whistle and tried to get into that, and us just walking away. Continue to play hard, play with speed and be physical, and yeah, you can tell it frustrated them.”
“We’re here to play hockey. We’re not here to fight and do all that. That stuff after the whistle doesn’t win you games. So, we’re just focused on playing our game and playing it smart. They want that stuff after the whistle and big hits and all that. We just stay grounded, stay level-headed, keep our emotions in check and just, like I said, play hockey.”
On Ott, Coyle said, “Just let him be a non-factor out there, that’s all. That’s his game and that’s what he’s got to do. We don’t focus on that. We don’t pay attention to it. He doesn’t do much out there.”
Mike Yeo said, “We knew we were going to have to be on top of things tonight and we were ready to start the right way. We talked about being ready for whatever follows. I thought our guys did a good job – we had a pretty decent start – of just staying with it, not getting frustrated. Obviously that first goal is huge.”
On the after whistle extracurricular stuff by the Blues, Yeo said, “We prepped for this, we expect it and I think our guys have done a good job of handling it so far, but we have a long way to go here.”
On the team effort, “We need everybody. That’s a very good hockey team, a very talented hockey team, four lines deep, and six d deep. If we have one particular line going that’s not going to be enough. Tonight was a good team game and we were playing the right way and somebody different is going to have a chance to have their name in the headlines the next day a little bit more than some others.”
On the Wild’s speed, “Well, we were excited to get in front of our crowd, that’s for sure. We were expecting our crowd to be a lot like they were, and our guys feed off that. We talked about that last year, and we knew that we were going to have some pretty good energy, as far as how we wanted to play in front of them, giving them reasons to be loud. But that’s got to be our game. That’s got to be the way that we’re playing. We’re built around speed. Our game’s built around speed. It’s not just a personnel thing. So we have to be playing fast.”
On taking no penalties, Yeo said, “We needed that. We knew that. As far as keeping our sticks on the ice, as far as moving our feet, we played the game the way that we needed to as far as staying out of the box, but I also think a big factor was how we played with the puck. That was very important, just as far as spending a little bit more time with the puck, spending a little bit more time in the offensive zone. That was crucial. We have to have that mindset. They’ve got a very good power play, and you don’t want to give those skill guys a chance.
On the quality Bergenheim-Brodziak-Fontaine line, Yeo said, “I thought they did a good job again. It’s a good team win. If you want to keep asking me about players, I’ll keep telling you I think everybody did a good job. I’m not trying to be a jerk about that, but again I thought the guys within their role were strong. I thought we were four lines deep. I thought all the ‘D’ did a good job tonight. But for sure, we need that line to bring us good energy and they had a couple really good shifts that got the crowd going and that’s what we’re looking for from those guys.
“As I said this morning, our guys are all in for each other right now. We know that we’re playing a good hockey team, but we are a very motivated group and we have pretty decent confidence that we’ve been working for a long time here. So again, we feel good about this game and now we’ll just get ready for the next one.”
Here’s some Pominville:
“We fed off the energy the crowd gave us. We knew it was going to be good, and it was even better than what I expected. I thought every line was going. We controlled play for the most part and we made some good plays. And our D did a really good job tonight with their gap and made it tough on them. That led to us having the puck more.
“We were able to play with the puck more, we were able to make more plays and more zone time. That gives us momentum and obviously gets the crowd into it.
We played a pretty solid game overall. We’re obviously happy with it, and we’ll enjoy it tonight and put it behind us and get back to work.
“I wasn’t sure if it was going to get through or not, but he made a good play. He froze the goalie, and I was able to kind of settle it down and put it in. So it was nice to get that one for sure.”
On his line, “I think for our line to be successful, we’ve got to be moving. We’re not the three biggest guys physically, but we can move well, and we can make plays when we need to, and our forecheck game has been pretty good. I thought tonight we were moving and we were making plays. It makes it tough to defend when you’re always moving and making plays when you have the puck. So it was nice to get rewarded the way we did for sure. “
Here’s some Blues stuff from our media quote loop:
Tonight we helped them beat us. We didn’t stick to our game plan, we weren’t going to the net like we did in Game 2. We weren’t getting puck s through and we were trying to get a little bit too cute from the top of the circles out. We’ve got to get pucks deep and get them to the net. We had a lot of problems doing that tonight.
We weren’t putting pucks deep. With this team you have to get the puck in behind the D-men. They like to have a tight gap and feed their transition, and we were feeding right into it. We were trying to make plays in front of them instead of putting pucks behind them and that just fed to their offense and let them get the momentum in the first period.
(Allen) We let him down, some back door plays. He made some big stops for us but when you put a big goose egg up on the board, it’s hard to win.
(Game 4) Come to play, come to execute what the game plan is. If we put in a solid effort then we have a chance to win. If we’re kind of all over the place like we were tonight that team’s going to beat us every night.
It was reminiscent of Game 1 I think, where they skated a lot and wanted to assert their game and we let them by sitting on our heels and playing passive. We let them come at us, come at us, come at us and the Granlund line scored two goals for them. They’re dynamite on the rush, they’ve shown that all series and they made us pay tonight.
We’ve got to get to our game. I thought it was a lot better in the third again, but you can’t play 15-20 minutes against this team and expect to win games. We need a full 60-minute effort like we had in Game 2. We have another chance on Wednesday to play a 60-minute game with 20 guys on the ice and get a job done.
We have to learn our lesson, put this behind us and remember it’s a battle out there, it’s a war and it’s going to take a great effort every night against this team.
Cute and on our heels. I think if we’re on our toes and more assertive and more aggressive, trying to put our game out there instead of trying to see what they’re going to bring with their crowd and energy, then trying to react to that. Then it’s too late and they’ve already carried the play for 10-15 minutes at that point, gotten a couple power plays.
We don’t draw a single penalty tonight and for good reason, because we’re not on our toes, we’re not carrying the play in their zone and making them take penalties. All those things add up to 3-0 against.
Their team speed, when you let them have time and space to make plays and zip the puck around, it’s dangerous and they’ve shown that the whole second half of the year.
They got to show their speed and skill and abilities tonight and we were playing catch-up all night really after the first period with only four shots.
I just think play for 60 minutes. We did that in the second game and we came out on top. We didn’t the first game, we didn’t tonight. Their team is going to be there from start to finish. They battle, every single line, so we need to realize that now and we can’t let the ball slip any more.
That’s the way they play. They’re one of the best teams in the league since Christmas. They had a slow start to the year but since then they’ve probably been one of the top one or two teams in the league.
We’ve got our work cut out for us. We’ve dug ourselves a hole, but now it’s time to get out.
(Parise goal) That went off our D-man’s stick. He shot it on the ice and it hit our D-man’s stick so fast it went top corner. He didn’t mean to shoot there.
My job is to keep the puck out of the night and give the guys a chance. I felt good out there again tonight and I’ll keep battling the next game.
That’s it for me. I’ll talk to you after Tuesday’s practices.