ST. PAUL, Minn. -- For the second consecutive season the Minnesota Wild eliminated the Central Division champion in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. This time it was the St. Louis Blues, beating them in six games in the Western Conference First Round.
All six games were decided by two goals or more and Minnesota closed the series by winning the final two games.
Here are five reasons the Wild advanced to the second round:
1. Dubnyk answers the bell -- Goaltender Devan Dubnyk allowed six goals on 17 shots in a 6-1 loss to the Blues in Game 4, tying the best-of-7 series at 2-2. It was Dubnyk's worst performance since being traded to Minnesota from the Arizona Coyotes on Jan. 14.
How did he respond? By stopping 66 of the final 68 shots he faced in Games 5 and 6, leading the Wild to the only consecutive wins for either team in the series.
It's been quite a season for Dubnyk, who was named a Vezina Trophy finalist on Friday. One year ago, he was a playoff extra for the Montreal Canadiens who received permission to leave the team and join his wife at home in Edmonton, who was expecting the couple's first child
"I was thinking about it over the last couple days," Dubnyk said. "It just feels right. It feels right for our group to be where we are and to continue to move forward. That's why it's easy to go out and play and feel like we're going to win because we've done it all year. Hopefully we can continue doing that."
2. Winning on the road -- Over the final few weeks of the regular season, no team was better than the Wild at winning away from home. Minnesota tied an NHL record with 12 consecutive road victories from mid-February until the regular-season finale in St. Louis, a game where several regulars from each team sat out.
That trend continued in the postseason.
The Wild won two of the three games at Scottrade Center, including a 4-2 victory in Game 1 and a 4-1 win in Game 5 on Friday.
3. Limiting the damage -- From a statistical standpoint St. Louis forward Vladimir Tarasenko had some eye-popping numbers: A hat trick in a Game 2 win and two more goals in a Game 4 victory. He also scored the Blues' goal in Game 5.
But other than that?
David Backes was held off the score sheet in five of the six games. T.J. Oshie didn't score a goal until Game 6. Jaden Schwartz was limited to one goal. Paul Stastny’s stat line was the same as fourth-line grinder Ryan Reaves.
All season long the Blues were able to beat teams with their tremendous depth. Minnesota, for the most part, was able to match that depth and contain it.
4. First line steps up --
Left Wing - MIN
GOALS: 3 | ASST: 4 | PTS: 7
SOG: 11 | +/-: 3
This time of year the best teams have their best players step up. That was the case for Minnesota in this series.
The line of Zach Parise, Jason Pominville and Mikael Granlund combined for 17 points, far outpacing any other Wild line. Parise (seven points), Pominville (five points) and Granlund (five points) finished as Minnesota's top three scorers, respectively, in the series.
"I thought we had our moments," Parise said. "I think we can get some more offensive-zone time. But against these guys that's tough. We were able to get some goals for our team and that's what we're supposed to do."
They were especially good in Games 3 and 6. All three had two-point games in a 3-0 in Game 3 win and Parise scored twice in Game 6, with Pominville and Granlund each assisting on perhaps the biggest goal of the series, Parise's even-strength goal 1:01 into the third period to make it a 3-1 game.
5. Improved power play -- It wasn't pretty at times, but the Wild's much-maligned power play, which finished the regular season ranked 27th in the NHL, rose to the occasion by converting on an NHL-best 33.3 percent of its chances.
The timing of several of the power-play goals was just as important. Matt Dumba's power-play goal in the second period of Game 1 gave the Wild a two-goal lead headed to the third period. Later in the same game Pominville scored an empty-net power-play goal to secure a 4-2 win. Mikko Koivu's man-advantage goal late in the second period of Game 5 gave Minnesota a two-goal lead headed to the third period.
Minnesota's power play was far from perfect, but it delivered at several key moments.