The Blues knew it, the fans knew it, hell even the Wild knew it: St. Louis was going to bring it today. Two days after giving fans the royal middle finger in what was a highly anticipated Game 1, the Blues rebounded with a typical Blues game and it suited fans just fine. Strong goaltending, heavy hits, weird bounces and oh yeah, some goals.
Game 2 started off similarly to game 1 with the Blues putting good pressure on Minnesota and the Wild continuing the block shot after shot. In two first periods in the series the Wild have blocked a total of 22 Blues shots which shows the Blues are playing well but just not finding lanes to shoot through. Unlike game 1, though, the Blues adjusted to what Minnesota was doing and, combining that with more physical play, would lead to better scoring chances.
With under seven minutes to play the Blues would generate good cycle play behind the Wild net with Alex Steen eventually coming up with the puck in the slot. After resetting at the point, Steen would take a feed from Kevin Shattenkirk and rip a shot to the net for Vladimir Tarasenko:
Even though the Blues scored two goals in game 1, this is what the fans wanted to see; Tarasenko giving the Blues a lead. But wait he wasn't done yet and better yet the second goal came on the power play at that.
And no, you aren't imagining things, that was Shattenkirk and Steen assisting yet again on a Tarasenko goal. In fact Shattenkirk assisted on the first four goals the Blues have scored in this series.
The physical play carried through the rest of the period as well as the teams combined for 46 hits in the first, compared to 47 total hits all of game 1. This recipe is what the Blues wanted and needed to show and after one it made fans feel good about what they were seeing.
The second period was a lot more of the same as the Blues continued to dominate the play but a controversial penalty call gave the Wild some life as Zybnek Michalek was called for interference when Jason Zucker checked him heading to the boards and Michalek's skate tripped Zucker. undoubtedly the fans started to lay it on the refs yet again as another bad call went against the Blues.
The power play and lead almost expired a few seconds later as a simple dump in took a crazy bounce off the stanchion and careened between Allen's pads. But the young netminder kept his cool and carefully found the puck and secured it with his goal stick preventing it from crossing the line and giving Minnesota some hope. The physical play of the Blues started bearing fruit late in the second as the Wild would collect two interference penalties yet the Blues were unable to capitalize on them putting the pressure on in the third.
Minnesota had a game plan to weather the storm the Blues threw at them and keep it close until the Blues ran out of steam, their plan worked because the first three quarters of the third were all Minnesota. The dread started to creep in just 1:16 in to the third when the Wild broke in and a couple of drop passes led to a Marco Scandella shot that was just a little odd:
As the third dragged om, the Wild kept lines flowing in to the Blues zone and also benefited from some more odd bounces and lucky breaks. Another dump in hit another stanchion and came out front but Jake kept in form and shut down the point blank attempt. Later Charlie Coyle took a pass at the blue line and danced around a Blues defender and flicked a shot as he was falling down toward the goal. The puck would find crossbar, knock Jake in the back and start making its way to the goal only to have David Backes sweep it away at the last instant to preserve the lead.
The Blues finally woke up to the fact that they were playing like the first game again and started to get pucks in to the Wild zone and sustain some pressure. Finally with two minutes to go the Blues got the break they probably didn't deserve but so richly wanted. The Wild cleared the puck from the zone and as a bottle up on the boards formed the puck squirmed free to center ice as Patrik Berglund happened to be skating by. Berglund picked it up and entered the zone and since he wasn't pressured decided, hmm maybe I will shoot:
With two minutes to go though, there was still time for the Wild to get back in it, as the Blues showed in the first game. The Wild started pull Devan Dubnyk but a turnover at center gave Steve Ott the puck and he fired it at the empty net thinking Dubnyk had made it there but Dubnyk had seen the turnover and dove back to make the save about 20 feet from the net.
The Wild got back in to the Blues zone and finally succeeded in pulling Dubnyk and they started to apply pressure to the Blues and managed to get a few good looks at the net but the puck found its way to the magic man and Tarasenko buried the puck for his first career playoff hat trick:
After not recording a shot in the first game, Tarasenko showed why he can and will be so dangerous in not only the playoffs but his career. The Blues, though, can not rest on the 4-1 win as this was a one goal game for much of the third and Minnesota put a lot of pressure and were just a few inches away from two or three more goals. The physical play has to continue but has to be more measured out so as not to run out of gas in the third and let this team come back on them.
The Blues have to realize too that they have put more pucks past Dubnyk(5) then Minnesota has put past Allen(3) shows that he is not invincible. If they can do these things then the rest of the series should play out exactly like the fans think it should.
Game 3 is Monday night in Minnesota and is at a more reasonable Midwest time of 7:00 pm so hopefully the Blues will show up on time.
#3 - Alex Steen: 2 assists
#2 - Jake Allen: 24 saves and steady play all around
#1 - Vladimir Tarasenko: Hat Trick, 5 Shots after no shots in Game 1