There was a certain irony that the St. Louis Blues used a 4-on-4 to score the winning goal with 2:27 left to take a second straight 2-1 win in St. Paul on Friday night.
Three years ago, it drove Mike Yeo loco how the referees constantly called 4-on-4s in the Wild’s playoff series against Colorado, saying at one point it seemed to be a tactic by the faster, more skilled Avs knowing referees usually try to even things up in scrums.
Tonight, after a game full of goalmouth scrums and skirmishes, referee Brad Meier called a 4-on-4 after Scottie Upshall ran Charlie Coyle, drove him into the ice and through a linesman. Coyle got up, got in Upshall’s face, did his best not to retaliate, but a scrum ensured and a 4-on-4 was called.
That’s not excusing the fact that the Wild downright stinks at 4-on-4. There’s no reason it should stink with its speed and skill, but as I noted during a sort of doomsday tweet right after the calls, it’s not the Wild’s forte, that’s for sure.
"It's pretty disappointing we're playing 4-on-4 in the playoffs on that play on the wall,” Dubnyk said. “That's unacceptable in a 1-1 hockey game to make that call, it just doesn't make sense. You can watch it a hundred times, there's zero reason. It's either a penalty on them or it's no penalty. I'm not saying it's a penalty on them, it's just no penalty. Why make it a 4-on-4 game with four minutes left? It's not to make excuses, it's just they made a play.”
So, after “killing” the first 1:36 of the 4-on-4, the Wild gave up the winner.
David Perron did a masterful job of driving the middle after Alex Pietrangelo fed Jaden Schwartz coming off the bench, that got Jonas Brodin to back off and Schwartz fired through Brodin’s legs and over top Dubnyk’s glove for the winning goal.
"Yeah, I didn't see the puck,” Dubnyk said.
The Wild fell to 2-10 in Game 2 all-time, including six consecutive losses.
Only 12.7 percent of teams all-time (out of 385 series) that trailed 0-2 rallied to win. The Wild did it once, but that was in 2014 when the Wild returned home down 0-2, not headed on the road down 0-2.
This is the 13th time the Blues have been up 2-0. They’re 10-2. This is only the third time the Blues have taken a 2-0 lead by winning the first two games on the road. In the previous two, the Blues swept their opponent.
So those Stanley Cup aspirations. The Wild’s currently imploding them.
The Blues played a much better game tonight, were more aggressive, held the Wild to 24 shots as opposed to 52 Wednesday and held the Wild to just one 5-on-3 goal.
So, in 137 minutes, 48 seconds in this season, the Wild has one 6-on-5 goal, one 5-on-3 goal and zero 5-on-5 goals.
The Wild led the NHL with 187 5-on-5 goals this season. The Blues are the best even-strength teams in the NHL, however, since Yeo took over Feb. 1.
The Wild needs some players to step up, plain and simple.
It was clear players like Coyle tried to play a man’s game tonight. He was driving the net (six shots) and banging bodies and showing courage. Others need to follow suit.
It’s tough for a guy like Mikael Granlund. They’re challenging the Wild’s regular-season leading scorer physically every time he has the puck. And it’s working because he’s passing up shots, overpassing, turning pucks over, flying by the net.
The Wild needs more. Eric Staal had a tough Game 2. Some bad turnovers, three shots. Parise had seven shots, Jason Zucker six, although Zucker probably was trying too hard early. He took an undisciplined penalty, drop-passed a puck out of the zone, passed a puck into a defender’s skate.
“We just can't seem to get a break at the other end but we know that we are more than capable of creating goals and, you know, we've created offense and we've just got to keep doing that,” Dubnyk said. “I think the danger is to start changing what you're doing.”
Added Dubnyk, “We just need to get the next one. That's got to be our focus right now. We've been a good road team all year so we're just going to try to keep playing our game and I think we'll get some momentum here.”
The Wild has to figure out a way to get inside these big D.
“They clog the middle of the ice up. They've got six big defensemen, and it's hard to get through,” Boudreau said. “We might change a couple things. But quite frankly, we miss in one end, they score in the other, it's execution. As tough as it is to get through the slot, I would still say we had more chances to score than them tonight. We're just not putting them in when we're getting the opportunity, and obviously they're scoring at the right time.
“There's plays that I'm looking at that we're just missing by a hair.”
Boudreau pointed out that the Ducks were down 2-0 last year and won the next two in Nashville.
“But let's face it: Both games could've gone either way,” he said. “So I don't see why we can't go in there and do the same thing to them that they did to us. This is what happened last year, when we went into Nashville and won the next three games. So it's not impossible.”
Here’s some Yeo
“So we knew we had to be more aggressive, more assertive in our game. We knew we had to tweak a couple things and adjust a little bit and find a way to get better between 1 and 2 and I think we did that today. And now we're gonna have to do the same thing.
“We obviously limited the shots against tonight, much better job of that. And again, nothing's changed. This is a group that still challenges you, that's still tough. They've still got a lot of players over there, and the way they throw pucks at the net, it's challenging. But we're digging in on it, and so far, we've been good at it. We've got to make sure that we continue to get better as a group. And we've got to do that both with and without the puck.”
Zach Parise, who scored the Wild’s 5-on-3 goal, said, “I thought they played a good game. Felt like they were a little quicker, they were a little better in the d-zone than the first game. I thought they played better and we didn¹t play as well.”
Asked if the Wild can draw on the end of season adversity, Parise said, “Well, we’re going to have to. Again, look for places we can be better and worry about getting that next game and not dwell on the fact that we’re down 0-2.”
On the 5-on-5 lack of scoring, Parise said, “They’re sitting five guys, when we’re in the zone, right inside the hash
marks and blocking shots. Again, that’s something we’re going to have to figure out if we want to get some goals and win some games, we’re going to have to figure out what we can do better there.”
Asked if there’s confidence the Wild can dig out of this, Ryan Suter said, “Well we have a good team. We have to make sure that we’re focused and ready for the game. Obviously it’s a bad feeling right now but you have to dig deep and find out what we’re made of here.”
That’s it for now. I’ll be on KFAN at some point during the final hour of Beyond the Pond, I think, depending on travel.