. Mike Yeo was asked Saturday morning about the Minnesota Wild-St. Louis Blues rivalry when he quickly interrupted the questioner: “I don’t think it was much of a rivalry before (we beat St. Louis in the playoffs) because they just beat us for fun every time.”
But as the Wild coach quickly added, “It’s gotten to the point they understand we’re a pretty decent team, too.”
That simmering rivalry that especially heated up when the Wild became the latest team to knock off the Blues in the first round last spring was revived Saturday night with a 3-2 Wild victory.
Charlie Coyle, who moved to center after playing right wing Thursday at Colorado, scored two goals, Zach Parise continued his scorching start with his fourth goal in two games and Devan Dubnyk made 30 saves for his 99th career win as the Wild improved to 13-0-2 all-time in home openers.
Dubnyk had to be great in the third period. As the Wild registered one shot in the final 20 minutes, Dubnyk stopped 12 of 13 St. Louis shots.
It’s the second year in a row the Wild opened the season 2-0 heading into an oddly-timed long break. The Wild opens a three-game road trip Thursday at Arizona and doesn’t play next at Xcel Energy Center until Oct. 22.
Alex Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko scored for the Blues, who opened a six-game road trip.
The game had a little bit of everything: Hard hits, post-whistle scrums, end-to-end action and the first-ever Coach’s Challenge involving the Wild.
Moments after Parise and Coyle scored 21 seconds apart late in the second period to turn a 1-1 deadlock into a 3-1 Wild lead, Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, who Saturday morning said he would not hesitate to risk his timeout to challenge any goal, challenged whether Coyle interfered with goalie Jake Allen before Vanek’s goal.
After a moderately-long review, referee Brad Meier didn’t overturn his call.
Vanek, the former Gophers star, was initially credited with his 300th career goal after finding Ryan Suter’s rebound off the post and throwing the puck into the crease. But the puck hit Allen and caromed in off Coyle.
The goal came moments after Parise scored on a power play. Parise, fresh off a hat trick against the Avalanche, took Suter’s pass in the right circle and attempted a pass to Jason Pominville that ricocheted off Jay Bouwmeester’s stick and into the net.
It was a sudden turn of events after the Blues controlled most of the second period and tied the score on Steen’s goal 2:49 in. But Steen, Jaden Schwartz and Carl Gunnarsson took three successive penalties in the last 9:22 of the period to turn the game around.
This all came after a tight-checking, hard-fought opening period in which the Wild took a 1-0 lead in the final seconds.
With 18 seconds left in a scoreless period, the Wild got stuck with a defensive-zone draw because of a second offside call of the period by linesman Matt MacPherson on Vanek.
The Wild veteran wholeheartedly disagreed, but it worked out bigtime for the Wild. Yeo threw two centers onto the ice in case Mikko Koivu got tossed out of the faceoff circle.
The second center was Coyle. After Koivu tied up center Paul Stastny on the draw, defenseman Jonas Brodin found the loose puck and sent it ahead to Coyle at the defensive blue line. Coyle chipped it off the wall past Gunnarsson and skated hard to put pressure on the Blues’ defense as he crossed alone into the St. Louis end.
With Coyle forechecking, defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk’s outlet pass deflected off a charging Coyle. He picked up the puck in the fight circle and roofed a nifty backhander over Allen’s glove for his first goal of the season.
It was the same type of determination that Coyle showed Thursday in Denver when he muscled Matt Duchene off the puck on a backcheck. He stole the puck, sent it to Mikael Granlund and Granlund fed Vanek for the tying goal in the Wild’s three-goal, third-period comeback win.