Joel Eriksson Ek didn't hear an "I'm sorry" from Wild teammate Marcus Foligno for Foligno's role in overturning Eriksson Ek's hat trick in Game 2 against the Blues on Wednesday.

St. Louis got the ball rolling, using a coach's challenge to determine if the play was offside, but it was Foligno who was caught on video preceding the puck into the offensive zone.

"Absolutely not," Foligno said in his usual lighthearted tone. "He's gotta dump the puck in quicker."

Instead of potting the Wild's first playoff hat trick — a feat Kirill Kaprizov achieved later in the 6-2 rout at Xcel Energy Center — Eriksson Ek was downgraded to a pair of goals to go along with an assist.

But the impressiveness of his performance remained.

"No matter what, hat trick or not, he was definitely the star of the game for us," Foligno said.

After a valiant effort a year ago in a first-round, seven-game defeat against the Golden Knights, Eriksson Ek continues to emerge as a difference-maker come playoff time: He scores clutch goals, delivers on the power play and penalty kill and can shut down the opposition with his agitating style.

Basically, he has the right repertoire to sway a best-of-seven battle, like he did Wednesday to help the Wild even its first-round matchup with the Blues at 1-1 ahead of Game 3 on Friday night at Enterprise Center in St. Louis.

"He does it all," Foligno said of Eriksson Ek, who had career highs in goals (26), assists (23) and points (49) in the regular season. "He's a game breaker, also just a big-game player, and that's what you need in the playoffs. Led by example [Wednesday] night and all year, even last season. We know what he's all about, and I think [opposing] teams are slowly starting to realize it."

Neither of his tallies counted as the game-winner, but Eriksson Ek was behind arguably the most crucial goal for the Wild so far this series.

The Wild had yet to push a puck behind Blues goalie Ville Husso, getting shut out 4-0 in the opener, and the team didn't have a shot on net in Game 2 nearing the halfway point of the first period.

That changed at 9 minutes, 33 seconds when Eriksson Ek wound up for a one-timer, a no-nonsense finish off a fortuitous bounce as St. Louis' Robert Bortuzzo had his stick break to facilitate the turnover that led to Eriksson Ek's look.

"It was obviously super important for us to get that momentum," Kaprizov said, "to get feeling good about the game. So, I'm really happy for him. It was a great goal. Very much needed. He's doing great. I'm pumped for the way he's playing."

This wasn't the first turning point Eriksson Ek was responsible for in the playoffs.

A year ago, he broke the scoreless stalemate in Game 1 at Vegas when he capitalized in overtime for a 1-0 Wild victory.

"I like him a lot better on my team," said goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who was in net for the Golden Knights that series. "He's a big guy, always in the crease, screen you, tip, spear you. I think he showed how good he is again."

Eriksson Ek eluded Fleury one more time and was in the lineup all seven games before the Wild was eliminated despite suffering a knee injury that he said didn't feel better for a month and a half.

Timely offense, however, isn't his only knack.

Eriksson Ek is a fixture on the penalty kill and considering special teams can decide outcomes — they already have in the Wild-Blues series — deploying a stout defender in Eriksson Ek is an asset for the Wild. (The 25-year-old center, who was fourth in Selke Trophy voting last season as the NHL's top two-way forward, is also on the power play and picked up an assist in the first period to contribute to the unit's improvement from Game 1.)

Then there's Eriksson Ek's reputation as a pesky checker.

Take his second goal against St. Louis, a slick deposit behind Husso after he intercepted the puck in Blues territory.

Package that vigilance with a businesslike grit, and Eriksson Ek sure can aggravate the opponent.

"Everybody gets mad at him and [he] just acts like he doesn't know why," Fleury said. "'What did I do?' It's great to have him on your team, for sure."

With all these traits, it makes sense why the Wild would put Eriksson Ek in situations to be a factor.

And Eriksson Ek keeps rewarding the Wild for the opportunity.

"Just growing with experience and getting the chance to play a lot of minutes and play important minutes is helping to build confidence," he said, "and become the player I want to be."