Jason Zucker scored just under three minutes into the game and Matt Dumba added a goal early in the second period as the Minnesota Wild defeated the St. Louis Blues 4-2 Thursday in Game 1 of their first-round NHL playoff series.
Jaden Schwartz scored for the Blues at the 7:12 mark of the third period to cut it to 2-1, but the Wild added an empty-net goal by Mikael Granlund with 1:13 remaining. Blues forward Alexander Steen cut the deficit to one on a short-handed goal with 58.7 seconds remaining, but the Wild added a second empty-netter by Jason Pominville with 20 seconds remaining.
The sellout crowd of 19,671 was lulled to sleep much of the night by the Wild, who built a wall in front of goaltender Devan Dubnyk and kept slamming the door shut on Blues’ scoring opportunities.
The Blues finally broke through at the 7:12 mark of the third period when a shot by defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk was deflected in by winger Jaden Schwartz. That woke up the crowd and seemed to bring a new intensity in the Blues all over the ice.
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The Wild grabbed the lead just 2 minutes, 47 seconds into the contest as the speedy Jason Zucker made his way around Blues defenseman Zbynek Michalek and fired a shot on goalie Jake Allen. Zucker quickly grabbed his own rebound, flew around the back of the net and scored on a wraparound.
While the shots were even at 7-7, Minnesota stayed true to defensive form by blocking 10 shots in the first period.
Turning point: Zucker used his speed to gain the left corner, then grabbed his own rebound off the leg pad of Blues goalie Jake Allen and scored a wraparound goal at the 2:47 mark of the first period.
By the numbers: It marked the 20th time in the last 27 games the Wild has held an opponent to two goals or fewer, all but one of those with Dubnyk as the starter.
X-factor: The Wild suffocated the Blues all over the ice but especially in the offensive zone, blocking 15 shots in the first two periods and not giving up many high-quality scoring chances.
Net result: Making his NHL playoff debut, Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk looked solid while Blues rookie Jake Allen surrendered an early goal and later played well at times.
Up next: Minnesota at St. Louis, 2 p.m. Saturday