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St. Louis rolls; ties series

Blues score early and often in 6-1 win over Wild

St. Louis forward Vladimir Tarasenko scores the second of his two goals in the second period to give the Blues a 5-1 lead over the Wild on the way to a 6-1 win on Wednesday night at Xcel Energy Center. (MHM Photo / Jeff Wegge)

Blues score early and often in 6-1 win over Wild

St. Paul – Not much good occurred for the Wild Wednesday night.

“We were just brutal,” said winger Zach Parise.

The team’s only consolation: The evening ended with Minnesota and St. Louis tied 2-2 in the best-of-7 Stanley Cup Playoff series.

“We’re still in a good spot,” Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk said.

After three months of mostly sensational hockey for the local team, maybe the Wild were simply due for a big stinker.

Or maybe the Blues, who finished atop the NHL’s Central Division, finally became fed up watching the Wild skate circles around them through much of the first three games of the series and figured it was time to play with some purpose.

Whatever the cause, the Blues beat Dubnyk six times in a bit more than 36 minutes of play, driving him from the net en route to an easy 6-1 victory in front of 19,390 often disgruntled fans at the Xcel Energy Center.

“This,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock stated, “is our game. It’s not our best game. We’re going to play our game now; we’re not going to chase it around the rink like we did in the first three games.”

Although it was the first nightmare game for Dubnyk since he came to Minnesota on Jan. 14, he got zero help.

“We weren’t on it from the start,” Wild coach Mike Yeo said, “and we got worse as we went.”

That game of puck possession the Wild produced over the first three games? Totally absent Wednesday. Minnesota had just four shots on net in the first period and six in the second.

By that time, Darcy Kuemper had relieved Dubnyk, who stopped just 11 of 17 St. Louis shots and was uncharacteristically mediocre.

“I attribute it,” Yeo said, “to a team game that was nowhere good enough for us.”

Vladimir Tarasenko had two goals, Kevin Shattenkirk three assists and David Backes and Patrik Berglund each pitched in a goal and an assist for the Blues, who now have two of the potential final three games of the series set for St. Louis, beginning at 8:30 p.m. Friday.

“It looks like we joined the tournament now,” Hitchcock said. “We’re dialed in to our game. We’re not an easy team to play against when we’re dialed in.”

St. Louis took a 3-0 first-period lead before Jared Spurgeon brought the Wild within two goals on a second-period power play, but Paul Stastny’s goal just 1:58 later restored the three-goal lead and pretty much sealed the Wild’s fate for the evening.

“That took a little bit of air out of us,” Wild forward Thomas Vanek noted.

The five-goal loss represented the Wild’s worst-ever playoff defeat, an astounding development coming on the heels of a 3-0 victory that gave them a 2-1 series lead.

“We went from feeling awesome about ourselves, feeling like we can’t be beat, after our last game, and then we got a little dose of reality tonight,” Parise said. “A little slap in the face. We’ll regroup and be ready for the next one, but we have to be a lot better, we know that.”

Horrible loss notwithstanding, no one in the Minnesota dressing room seemed ready to concede anything.

“We’re been rebounding for three months,” Vanek pointed out.

Said Dubnyk: “If we lost 1-0, we’d still be in exactly the same position we are. We all know we can be better and we will be better. We stuck together all year and we’ve been good all year. I have no question or worry that we’ll be ready to go for next game.”

Yeo said as frustrating and disappointing as the evening was for his boys, the series is tied.

“That’s a pretty darn good team we’re playing there, and now it’s a best-of-3,” he said. “We’ve got a pretty good team ourselves and I think we should get excited for these next couple of games.”

BB covered sports for the Minneapolis Tribune for 13 years and for the St. Paul Pioneer Press for 20 years following stints at the International Falls Daily Journal and the Duluth News-Tribune. He was on the Wild beat as well as Gophers men's and women's hockey at the Pioneer Press. He lives in Minneapolis. Follow Bruce on Twitter @RealBBrothers

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