Skip to main content

Dubnyk's bounce-back effort helps Wild top Blues

by Louie Korac /

ST. LOUIS -- The Minnesota Wild continued a trend of alternating victories with the St. Louis Blues in their Western Conference First Round series.

And once the Wild withstood an early onslaught by the Blues, they were able to settle into the game and capitalize on their chances.

Nino Niederreiter and Mikko Koivu scored on back-to-back shots in a span of 1:26 late in the second period, and the Wild rolled to a 4-1 victory in Game 5 at Scottrade Center on Friday.

"It's been a challenge for both teams," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "They had a good start tonight, it was tough to give up the first goal but obviously, when your goalie plays like that, you give yourself a chance. Pretty good day, I guess. Our whole group is happy for him."

Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk made 36 saves in a bounce-back effort after he was pulled from Game 4, when he allowed six goals on 17 shots.

"He was awesome," Wild center Charlie Coyle said of Dubnyk. "We knew he was going to respond. He's always responded well since he's been here after every loss. Always has that positive attitude which is huge and it kind of wears off on us. That makes us confident in him and we knew he was going to play well tonight."

The Wild lead the best-of-7 series 3-2 and can close out the Blues in Game 6 at home on Sunday (3 p.m. ET; NBC, TVA Sports, SN). Minnesota has won Games 1, 3 and 5; St. Louis has won Games 2 and 4. Each game has been decided by at least two goals; the past four by three or more.

"I don't think I can explain the lopsided wins," Dubnyk said. "I don't think either team would have expected that. I think both sides aren't surprised by the going back and forth. We're two real good hockey teams, and we knew it was going to be a long, tough series, I'm sure they did too and that's when it becomes important to put games behind you, win or lose."

This game marked the first time in the series the team that scored the first goal of the game didn't win.

Marco Scandella and Coyle also scored for the Wild.

The Blues got a goal from Vladimir Tarasenko, and Jake Allen made 15 saves but allowed more than two goals for the first time in his past 12 starts.

It marks the third consecutive season the Blues have lost a Game 5 on home ice in the first round when the series was tied 2-2.

But the Blues lamented missed scoring opportunities, including two high-percentage looks from Alexander Steen in the second period that Dubnyk stopped, and the fact that they let the foot off the gas in the second.

Minnesota got 13 of its 19 shots in the second period.

But the Blues had opportunities to grab the lead on a pair of Steen chances. Dubnyk kicked out the right pad on one chance from the right circle and then stuck his leg up while on the ice as Steen tried to beat him with a wrist shot with the top portion of the net exposed.

"The first one, I feel like I picked my spot pretty good, but he gets a little piece on the blocker and then it hits his pad," Steen said. "The second one, coming around the net like that, it's a tough angle. He kind of slid over, so I wanted to make sure I got it up. Desperation play, got a little piece of that one too."

Niederreiter's second goal of the series put Minnesota ahead 2-1 with 5:04 remaining in the second. Former Blues forward Chris Stewart beat defenseman Zbynek Michalek out of the corner with the puck and fed Niederreiter, who beat Allen with a one-timer from the slot.

"We made a mistake on the second goal when we didn't get the puck deep," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "They got a faceoff and the d-man lost his stick. Jake didn't pick it up. That was kind of the turning point a little bit.

Koivu's power-play goal with 3:38 remaining in the second came when he tried to make a centering pass to Stewart; instead, the puck caromed off the skate of Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, went off Allen's paddle and into the net. The Wild's third goal came on their 12th shot. It was their fourth power-play goal of the series on 11 opportunities after ranking 27th with the extra man during the regular season.

The Blues dominated the first period and outshot the Wild 12-3, but had to settle for a 1-1 tie after 20 minutes.

"I don't know that it fell apart," Hitchcock said. "They were opportunistic. First period, until they scored their goal, it's the best we played in the whole series. We played great. We kind of flattened out a little bit when they scored the goal and then had all those chances in the second."

The Blues struck first when Tarasenko scored his NHL-leading sixth goal on his ninth shot of the series. With St. Louis on the power play, Tarasenko came in off the left corner, took a pass through the crease from Alexander Steen and beat Dubnyk at 8:04.

But Minnesota responded with the tying goal on its first shot of the game when Scandella's slap shot from the left circle went off Allen's glove and into the net at 11:06. The goal seemed to be deflating more so for the 19,653 in attendance.

Coyle put the game out of reach on the Wild's third shot of the third period when he beat Allen through a screen with 5:10 remaining.

Now the Wild can go home and look for a series-clinching victory.

"Game 6 is obviously going to be a great challenge," Yeo said. "We have not won anything yet. I think we're very aware that home ice has not been a huge advantage in this series. That's going to be a great challenge."

The Blues can only hope to bring the series back for Game 7 on Wednesday.

"We did so many good things today," Hitchcock said. "We had a little bit of a lull. I didn't think we responded as hard as we could have maybe when they scored their first goal; that gave them a little bit of wind, but just did so many good things. You're disappointed for the guys."

View More