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Parise, Dubnyk help Wild down Blues, win series

by Dan Myers

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Minnesota Wild did not want to go back to Scottrade Center for a Game 7 on Wednesday.

They won’t have to thanks to a win on home ice in Game 6.

Zach Parise scored twice and Devan Dubnyk made 30 saves to help the Wild defeat the St. Louis Blues 4-1 on Sunday and clinch the Western Conference First Round series at Xcel Energy Center.

Minnesota advances to face the Chicago Blackhawks in the second round. It will be the third straight year the teams face each other in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Sunday was the first time the Wild ever clinched a series on home ice.

"That was something that was very important to our group, to win in front of our fans," Minnesota coach Mike Yeo said. "Obviously you don’t want to go back and play that team in a Game 7 in their building. We knew that. It meant a lot to us to try to win this game in front of our fans. They deserved that."

The Blues, who won the Central Division title, have been eliminated in the first round of the playoffs in three straight seasons.

"They made us work for our chances. They made us work for them and we didn’t score," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "But the biggest thing for me is it’s hard to win when you’re chasing games all the time. We were chasing too many games."

Dubnyk made saves on 66 of the final 68 shots he faced in the series after being pulled in a 6-1 loss in Game 4, when he allowed six goals on 17 shots.

After stopping four shots in the first period, Dubnyk made 14 saves in the second and 12 in the third to close out the win.

"The story continues. That’s what we’re hoping for here, and I think there’s more to this story, but his play was outstanding," Yeo said. "That team challenges you. They challenge you in a lot of different ways, get a lot of pucks to the net, and I think as much as anything, it’s sort of his demeanor that trickles through to the rest of the group."

Parise finished the series with three goals and seven points. It was the second straight year Parise came up big in a Game 6 at home; he scored two goals and had two assists in a Game 6 win against the Colorado Avalanche in the first round last season. Minnesota went on to win the series in Game 7.

"All players want to be a part of a big-stage game. They want to contribute," Parise said. "As our line, we have to deliver. At the end of the day, we have to deliver. That’s what we’re supposed to do, and we were able to do that."

Parise got the Wild started in the first period with a shorthanded goal at 7:14. While killing a tripping penalty on forward Justin Fontaine, Parise gained control of the puck in the neutral zone, skated by Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk along the left wall and fired a shot from near the goal line that got past St. Louis goaltender Jake Allen short side between his pad and the goal post.

"It’s a terrible-angle shot. Those goals, in this League, at this time of year, don’t happen," Allen said.

"You don’t expect to get a shorty but I saw an opportunity to get around Shattenkirk and got good body position and got a shot," Parise said. "I saw him go down early, and he was kind of in that paddle-down position. I thought I was a little far out to hit a hole, but you just try to raise it a little and get lucky. Fortunately it went in."

Allen allowed another questionable goal midway through the second period, when Fontaine slipped a slow shot through his five-hole, capping a rush opportunity with his second career playoff goal.

"I was looking to kick it over, but the [defenseman] was cheating over and I was in a position to just throw it on net," Fontaine said. "It happened to go in."

Allen was replaced by Brian Elliott (six saves) after allowing two goals on 13 shots. Allen allowed four goals on 19 shots in a 4-1 loss in Game 5 on Friday.

"Two terrible goals again. I just let us down," Allen said. "Right now it’s going to sit with me in a terrible way for a while. It’s going to sit with me for a while, before I can start to let go and focus on next year. It was my job to keep the team in it. I let in a soft one, and it was a bad goal.

"To get a chance to win the Stanley Cup doesn’t happen too often in your career, especially with a team like this. This isn’t acceptable for any of us, I don’t think. This isn’t going to sit well with any of us for a while, and it’s going to be tough to watch the rest of the playoffs knowing we’re not in it."

The Blues got renewed life late in the second period on a goal by T.J. Oshie, but the Wild put the game away on Parise’s second goal of the game 1:01 into the third.

"[Parise is] tenacious. He’s an all-world player for a reason, because he works his butt off and he’s able to find opportunities like that," Blues captain David Backes said. "He did a good job. Made us pay twice."

Oshie’s goal was his first of the series and came with 3.4 seconds left in the second. A shot from the point by Shattenkirk was deflected through traffic to Oshie, who snuck a shot between Dubnyk’s arm and the post.

Parise finished an odd-man rush by scoring on a rebound off a Jason Pominville shot.

"I was really happy after that one," Parise said. "With them getting the late one in the second, [we] wish we could have been able to come in here after the second up 2-0. Fortunately, we got a little bit of life and we were able to get one right away."

Wild forward Nino Niederreiter scored into an empty net with 1:52 remaining. It was his second empty-net goal and third overall in the series.

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