Though his team returned from St. Louis with a split in its first two playoff games, Wild winger Zach Parise felt his line’s play had been lacking against the Blues.
“I thought we could do a lot better,” Parise said of the Wild’s top trio, which also includes Mikael Granlund and Jason Pominville. “The three of us wanted to have a better performance than we had in St. Louis.”
They delivered in a big way Monday, forcing the Blues to chase them all night and scoring the first two goals in the Wild’s 3-0 victory. The line had generated 16 shots on goal in the first two games of the series, but it had only a pair of empty-net goals to show for it. In the series’ first game at Xcel Energy Center, they used their speed, playmaking ability and the synchronicity that comes with deep familiarity to beat goalie Jake Allen twice in the second period.
The trio could have had a third goal, if Granlund had not missed a wide-open net when he got open on the back door in the third period. Though he felt a little embarrassed about that one afterward, Granlund was relieved it wasn’t necessary on a night when everything else clicked.
“We’ve played together for a long time, or long enough, “ said Granlund, who had two assists and a career-high four hits. “When we’re on top of our game, we’re really moving and supporting each other. That’s when we’re at our best.”
Pominville finished the game with a goal and an assist and five shots on goal; he also had two attempts blocked and missed on two others. He has two goals and two assists in the series. Parise also had a goal and an assist Monday and now has 13 playoff assists with the Wild, a franchise record.
The line’s first goal came via speed. Granlund jetted past Vladimir Tarasenko on the left wall and passed to Parise, who got Allen to freeze at the left side of the crease and sent the puck to a wide-open Pominville for a tap-in at the right post. The second came via tenacity, as Parise — met by Jay Bouwmeester in the slot — forced the puck through Bouwmeester’s skates and flicked it past Allen.
Parise said Pominville’s goal came on a broken play. Everyone else on the ice was mesmerized by the puck, he said, and Pominville had the presence of mind to stop at the post and look for a pass. Pominville said the line’s constant motion was the basis for its big night.
“I think for our line to be successful, we’ve got to be moving,” Pominville said. “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.”
Wild coach Mike Yeo didn’t want to single out the line for special praise, saying the team must continue to get top effort from everyone. But he noted that when questions arose about the line’s production in the first two games — something he said was natural, given its star power — he wasn’t concerned.
“I was pleased with the game they played in St. Louis in Game 2,” Yeo said. “And I’ve been pleased with them throughout the series. Tonight, they got what they deserved.”