The Wild will wake up exhausted, and so will 19,168 fans who filled Xcel Energy Center on Wednesday night/Thursday morning.
Three minutes after midnight, after the Wild had fired a franchise-record 52 shots on Jake Allen and finally forced overtime on its 44th shot at the 59-minute, 37-second mark, defenseman Joel Edmundson ended the Wild’s night with the winning goal for a 2-1 Game 1 playoff victory for the St. Louis Blues.
With the entire lower bowl full of fans standing, superstar Vladimir Tarasenko — shut down all night, mostly by the Mikko Koivu line — drove the net on Koivu from the corner. The puck was knocked off his stick right to a pinched-in Edmundson, who buried the goal into a wide-open net with 2:12 left in the first OT.
“Playoff hockey … win or lose, short memories are important,” said Zach Parise, who forced overtime with 22.7 seconds left. “You still have to look at the good things that we did and look at where we can be better. Unfortunately right now, we’re down 1-0 and now we’ve got to even it up.”
The Wild, which outshot St. Louis 52-26, was by far the better team. But Allen’s 51 saves were the most saves any opposing goal has made against the Wild in a playoff game. It was tremendous performance by the NHL’s best statistical goaltender for nearly 2½ months.
“We’re always trying to make it easy on him, but [Wednesday] he made it easy on us,” Blues defenseman Colton Parayko said.
The Wild fell to 2-10 all-time in Game 1 of a series. Teams that win Game 1 in a best-of-seven Stanley Cup Playoffs series hold an all-time series record of 447-204 (68.7 percent).
Allen was 22.7 seconds away from his first career playoff shutout when Parise slam-dunked a Koivu feed to send the anxious crowd into a frenzy.
With the Wild pressing with an extra attacker after taking a timeout in the waning seconds of regulation, Mikael Granlund dug a puck from the back of the net and fed Koivu in the slot. He sent a touch pass to the backdoor for Parise.
Allen was dialed in during the first period, then got into a zone during 16- and 17-save second and third periods where the Wild dominated everything from possession to territory to scoring chances virtually every moment except for back-to-back penalty kills where it only surrendered two shots.
“He was phenomenal,” Blues (and former Wild) coach Mike Yeo said of Allen. “He was challenged in so many ways.”
It looked like the tying goal would never come.
During one sequence midway through the third, Matt Dumba was denied at the backdoor. He hit the post on the rebound, then threw the puck back into the crease. As Nino Niederreiter tried to jam the puck behind Allen in, Parise accidentally stopped the puck from going in at the goal line with his stick blade.
So the veteran’s 31st career playoff goal to tie the score was sweet redemption.
“Trust me, I know what happened. Didn’t feel very good,” Parise said.
In a scoreless game early in the second, Vladimir Sobotka — back in a Blues sweater after a contract dispute that began in the summer of 2014 — scored for the second time in two games back from Russia.
Jonas Brodin, with no pressure, had his attempted chip off the glass intercepted by Alex Steen after a Wild faceoff win. Steen fed Sobotka in the high slot, he stepped between the circles against a challenging Devan Dubnyk and took a shot that pinballed off a streaking Christian Folin, who had a very tough game, past Dubnyk.
But Allen was the story. He picked up right where he left off in the regular season for the Blues, a league-best 22-8-2 under Yeo. He went from the worst No. 1 goalie statistically in the NHL as of Jan. 31 to the best since, recording an NHL-best 1.85 goals-against average and .938 save percentage under Yeo and winning 11 of his final 15 games.
“There are a few tweaks that we’ll make, but we’ve got to bring that same intensity and that same grit to our game and push for 60 minutes to be a little bit harder around the net and make sure a few of those rebounds go into the net,” Wild winger Jason Zucker said.
“There’s another six games to be played. It’s disappointing. We wanted to win this game. But overall, we can’t get down on ourselves and sit back and [have a] ‘poor me’ attitude. We’ve got to regroup.”