The comebacks, from the methodical to the magical, weren't a gimmick for the Wild.

That was the secret behind the team's success, a sassy swagger in the face of adversity activated by the players' ability to score their way out of trouble.

But when the team needed to be its most determined, to call the biggest audible of them all, the Wild cracked under the pressure.

"The stuff that didn't bother us all year bothered us," coach Dean Evason said, "and we didn't handle the situation [in Game 6] as well as we expected ourselves to handle it."

After rebounding all season en route to its best performance in franchise history, the Wild finally backed itself into a corner it couldn't get out of, losing three in a row and four out of six in a best-of-seven to get whisked out of the first round of the NHL playoffs by the Blues.

Finalized on Thursday night with a 5-1 exclamation point for St. Louis, this result was indicative of the Blues' experience from a Stanley Cup in 2019 and the Wild ceding control of the series in Game 4 despite St. Louis relying on a patchwork defense and starting a cold goaltender who hadn't won a playoff game in nearly three years.

What will linger, though, is that the Wild's M.O. became a no-go, the source of its rise and fall one and the same.

"We've been a bounce-back group," Evason said, "and we got to this spot [Thursday] and we didn't handle it very well."

No U-turns ahead

Few teams had more reps at rallying this season than the Wild, a trend that started with the very first game back in October.

By the end of April, the team tied for the third-most comeback wins in the NHL at 25 and was especially clutch when the climb got steeper: No team had more multigoal turnarounds than the Wild's nine, and 10 times it flipped the script in the third period.

But this knack didn't carry over to the playoffs.

In all four of their victories, the Blues scored first, a tone that was set in Game 1 in a 4-0 shutout at Xcel Energy Center to snatch home-ice advantage away from the Wild.

Only twice did the Wild even tie St. Louis after trailing. One instance came in Game 4, an opportunity to push the Blues to the brink of elimination that the Wild squandered after a galvanizing 6-2 display in Game 2 before a textbook road effort in Game 3 for a 5-1 rout.

The Wild never rattled Blues goalie Jordan Binnington, who entered the series on an 0-9 skid in the postseason, and didn't capitalize on a depleted St. Louis blue line that finished the game with four veterans missing.

Not only did the Blues persevere 5-2, but they got healthier in Game 5, where they edged the Wild again by the same margin. And with a chance to advance to Round 2 at home, St. Louis took advantage.

"It's more self-inflicted," Wild alternate captain Marcus Foligno said. "I don't think you can say they outplayed us. I think they outmanaged the game better than we did and played smarter."

Scoring shortage

Why couldn't the Wild answer?

Because the offense that defined most of its 53 regular-season wins disappeared.

Sure, there were defensive breakdowns, particularly on the decisive goals in Games 5 and 6, but this version of the Wild wasn't usually 2-1, 3-2 victors. The team won by running away from the opposition, its 305 goals a franchise record and the fifth most in the NHL.

But against the Blues, the Wild's execution wilted.

During its four losses, the team was limited to two goals or fewer; before the playoffs, that happened only eight times from the second half on.

Of the 16 goals the Wild ended up tallying, Kirill Kaprizov was responsible for almost half at seven and Joel Eriksson Ek had three. Thirty-goal scorers Ryan Hartman and Kevin Fiala recorded none and neither did Foligno after his career-high 23. Mats Zuccarello chipped in one, and the defense combined for two.

"They had four or five guys that had multi points or multigoal games and rose to the occasion, and we didn't," Foligno said. "And that the biggest difference."

A woeful power play didn't help either.

Actually, both sides of special teams undermined the Wild, season-long issues that were magnified in a head-to-head matchup. St. Louis had eight power-play goals, with two of those game-winners, and the Wild just four.

"There were sometimes where it shined," Foligno said, "and there was a lot of times where it didn't."

Increasing attention

Without its offense clicking, the Wild isn't the same.

But the spotlight can't help but extend to its own crease because of how the team deployed its goaltending.

After bringing in three-time Stanley Cup champion and future Hall of Famer Marc-Andre Fleury at the trade deadline, an acquisition that reinforced how serious the team felt about its playoff outlook, the Wild started Fleury in net for the first five games.

Then in Game 6, the Wild replaced him with Cam Talbot, who handled the bulk of the action before Fleury arrived.

"That doesn't really matter," Talbot said when asked if he received an explanation for why he wasn't named the postseason starter. "To me that's between the coaching staff and myself and [Fleury]. Obviously, was I disappointed? Yeah. Pissed off? Yeah. But they expected that. They want you to be pissed off.

"I mean, who doesn't want to play in the Stanley Cup playoffs? But I respected the decision, of course."

Talbot finished the regular season on a 13-0-3 run but hadn't played in two weeks when he was ushered into the playoffs with the season on the line. He said the first goal in Game 6 had to be saved, but Evason pointed to the defensive lapse in front of Talbot.

"Our goalies were great," Foligno said. "We just needed the guys around them to do a better job."

While Evason mentioned evaluating the team's decisionmaking, the most glaring question is how the team proceeds with the goalie position.

Fleury, whose addition from the Blackhawks cost the Wild a second-round draft pick, is a pending free agent, and Talbot is under contract for another season.

"This is a special group and I do have one year left, and I'm just excited to be a part of this team and this group, that locker room," Talbot said. "So, as much as that hurt, this is still a group that I believe in, a group that I'd like to be a part of. It's a special team."

Next test

Such is the crossroads the Wild finds itself at when a promising pursuit unravels, coming to terms with the past while forging a future.

The conclusion hasn't changed, another early exit for the sixth time the Wild has made the playoffs over the past seven seasons. What happens next will prove whether the process was different enough to finally lead to a new outcome, the latest test for the Wild's resiliency.

"This is a negative right now," Foligno said. "But the seven months or eight months of hockey we played was a huge, huge positive, a huge, huge steppingstone for this organization."