ST. LOUIS – Will a beleaguered defense, shorthanded offense and new goaltender coming off nine consecutive playoff losses always add up to a victory?
Probably not, but in this case, the math worked out that way for the Blues.
Despite mounting adversity, St. Louis avoided a daunting deficit to the Wild by persevering to eke out a 5-2 victory on Sunday in front of an announced 18,096 at Enterprise Center, tying the best-of-seven, first-round series at 2-2.
This ensures the Wild will also be returning to St. Louis once more after Game 5, which is Tuesday at Xcel Energy Center.
"Maybe a missed opportunity," Wild defenseman Matt Dumba said. "But we've just got to look at Game 5 right now."
The Blues' Jordan Kyrou scored twice and so did David Perron, but St. Louis captain Ryan O'Reilly was the architect on offense with two key assists — including on Kyrou's game-winner — before adding a late insurance goal.
"That's why he's our captain, right?" Kyrou said. "Unbelievable in all aspects."
Down 3-2 but in control, the Wild saw a comeback attempt nixed when Perron dumped the puck into an empty net with 1 minute, 58 seconds to go. O'Reilly punctuated the scoring by capitalizing on the power play with a minute left.
As for Jordan Binnington, who guided the Blues to the Stanley Cup in 2019 but was 0-9 in the postseason since, he stopped 28 shots in his first appearance of the series after Ville Husso started the first three games in net.
But Binnington's arrival wasn't the only indication St. Louis was searching for a spark after dropping Games 2 and 3 and getting outscored 11-3 in the process.
Consider these circumstances: Already down three regulars on defense due to injury, the Blues put seven defensemen in their lineup and utilized only 11 forwards. And they were down to six defensemen after Marco Scandella left hurt.
But St. Louis' resilience doesn't tell the whole story.
The Wild was also suspect, lacking the opportunistic scoring and sturdy structure that helped the team just days earlier.
"We didn't do enough to get to our game," coach Dean Evason said.
Standing in the Wild's way was a four-minute penalty kill after Kevin Fiala was whistled for high sticking.
Already, St. Louis led by a goal when Kryou buried his own rebound at 4:19 of the first period. And although the Wild didn't sink into a deeper hole while shorthanded, instead fending off the pressure that included seven of Marc-Andre Fleury's 29 total saves, the team was unable to flex its strength — relying on all its players.
"It disrupts the flow of the game, disrupts what we want to do," Evason said.
Once back to full strength, the Wild did get to return to Square 1 on a Kirill Kaprizov one-timer at 14:06. His five goals are tied for the most ever in a Wild playoff series, and captain Jared Spurgeon's setup was his 18th assist to move him past Mikko Koivu for the second most in the playoffs in franchise history.
But a scrambly 54 seconds in the second period stung the Wild.
O'Reilly passed off to Perron, whose shot was stopped. But the puck rolled behind Fleury into the crease, where Marcus Foligno's clearing attempt banked off Fleury and then caromed in off Foligno's skate at 10:30.
On the very next shift, O'Reilly fed a Dumba turnover to Kyrou, who slid the puck between his legs before lifting in a backhander at 11:24 for a highlight-reel finish.
Overlapping power plays later in the second could have delivered an equalizer, but the Wild sputtered and went 0-for-4 compared to 1-for-4 for the Blues.
"We missed the net," Evason said. "We had good looks."
Still, the Wild persisted.
Only 2:39 into the third and amid a 16-4 advantage in shots on goal, the Wild pulled within one after Matt Boldy jammed in a loose puck in the crease for his first career postseason goal.
One of the team's patented comebacks seemed to be in the works, especially with close calls from Dumba and Frederick Gaudreau, but St. Louis intervened.
"We tried," Dumba said.
The Blues might not have the same manpower as the Wild, but they are tied in the race to close out this series.
"It doesn't matter if guys are banged up or not," Gaudreau said. "Everybody is going to show up, and we know that. It's the playoffs.
"It was a big game. Unfortunately, we didn't come up with the win. We just have to focus on the next game now."