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Wild admit early playoff ouster 'tough to handle'

Minnesota lasts five games against Blues after record-setting regular season

by Jessi Pierce / NHL.com Correspondent

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Minnesota Wild expected to be playing in June, or at least past the Western Conference First Round in April.

But the St. Louis Blues ended those plans with a 4-3 overtime win against Minnesota in Game 5 at Xcel Energy Center on Saturday, eliminating the Wild from the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"It's tough to handle, really," Wild forward Zach Parise said. "None of us expected this. It's going to be a long offseason for sure. We tried to get our way back into the series, but when you're down 3-0 in the series, you're really asking a lot, not that we quit, we never quit, we tried, we played hard all the way till the end but, like I said, right now it's just a [disappointed] group of players."

 

[RELATED: Complete Wild vs. Blues series coverage]

 

It's the second consecutive season Minnesota was eliminated in the first round; they lost to the Dallas Stars in six games last year.

The Wild hired Bruce Boudreau as coach and added centers Eric Staal as a free agent and Martin Hanzal at the NHL Trade Deadline. 

Minnesota was 49-25-28, second in the Western Conference with a Wild-best 106 points. They set their records for longest winning streak (12, Dec. 4-29) and longest point streak (13 games, 12-0-1), and were second in the NHL with a plus-58 goal differential.  

With 13 players scoring at least 10 goals (tied for most in the NHL), Minnesota was second in the NHL with 263 goals (the Pittsburgh Penguins scored 278). 

But in the playoffs, the Wild scored eight goals in five games, by six players (Parise had two, Charlie Coyle had two; Martin Hanzal, Ryan Suter, Mikko Koivu and Jason Zucker had one each). That was despite outshooting the Blues 182-133.

"It's really disappointing," Parise said. "That's kind of the last thing to think about was how good our regular season was. It's a disappointing finish to the season."

Captain Mikko Koivu said he doesn't feel like the window to win a Stanley Cup is closing.

"Not at all," the 34-year-old said. "Sure we felt good coming in. I thought we had a great year coming into the playoffs, and we played well, just not good enough. Somehow [St. Louis] got that extra goal four out of five (games). Like I said earlier, it's impossible to pick one thing why we came up short like that."

Parise said the early playoff exit that will define these Wild, not the successful regular season. 

"Usually you remember what you last saw, so, unfortunately, you're going to remember getting knocked out in five games," he said.

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