Wild center Eric Staal suffered a scary injury late in the second period of Saturday’s season-ending 4-3 loss to the Blues when he went headfirst into the end boards after splitting the Blues defense and getting a shot on goalie Jake Allen.
Staal grabbed his head and lay on the ice for several minutes as he was attended to by team medical personnel. He slowly skated off the ice with assistance, seeming dazed as he talked to teammate Ryan Suter. Staal was helped down the tunnel to the Wild dressing room at Xcel Energy Center and went to Regions Hospital for observation.
Staal was released from the hospital on Saturday night.
“I felt bad for the guy,” Suter said. “He’s the ultimate competitor, the ultimate warrior, and for him not to be able to help us try to find a way to win, I know it was crushing to him. Hopefully he’s all right.”“You really don’t know what’s going on, obviously [you’re] relieved that he was able to get up and when you see that it’s nothing serious … it’s a little easier to get on after that,” Wild captain Mikko Koivu said. “But when a guy goes down like that, for sure, you get scared for a bit and you get down.”
No penalty was called on the play. Staal tripped to the left of the goal and was tangled with defenseman Carl Gunnarsson’s stick and clanked skates with Allen.
For the win
After scoring the winning goal in overtime Saturday, Blues winger Magnus Paajarvi couldn’t help but smile. “Super thrilled,’’ he said of his first playoff goal. “I’m proud of it, but I’m not satisfied.’’
Paajarvi, 26, spent much of this season in the minors before fighting his way back. In his fourth season with the Blues, Paajarvi — picked 10th overall by Edmonton in the 2009 NHL draft — played only three games before he was sent to the team’s AHL affiliate in Chicago on Oct. 28. He was recalled Feb. 5 when Robby Fabbri was injured and is playing the best hockey of his tenure in St. Louis.
Paajarvi had his most productive season since joining the Blues, with eight goals and 13 points in 32 regular-season games, and has a goal and an assist in the playoffs.
“[Paajarvi] is a great story,’’ coach Mike Yeo said. “A guy that has to go down to the minors, and the coaches did a great job with him there. He showed an awful lot of character for him to really define his game.’’
Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk stopped 23 of 27 shots Saturday; he started the season by never giving up more than three goals in his first 27 games.
Dubnyk’s second-half struggles in the regular season cost him a finalist berth for the Vezina Trophy, which goes to the NHL’s best goalie. The finalists, named Saturday, are Montreal’s Carey Price, Washington’s Braden Holtby and Columbus’ Sergei Bobrovsky.
When he was named to the All-Star roster on Jan. 10, Dubnyk was 21-7-3 and led the NHL with a 1.80 goals-against average and .939 save percentage. After Feb. 1, he was 13-11-2 and had a GAA of 2.82.
• Wild forward Mikael Granlund is expected to be named a Lady Byng Trophy finalist Sunday.
• Veteran Paul Stastny returned from a foot injury and scored in his series debut.
• Backup goalie Darcy Kuemper was scratched in what likely would have been his last time in a Wild uniform.
• Center Erik Haula returned for the Wild. He replaced rookie Joel Eriksson Ek.
Staff writers Michael Russo and Rachel Blount contributed to this report.