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Tarasenko hat trick helps Blues even series vs. Wild

by Louie Korac /

ST. LOUIS -- St. Louis Blues right wing Vladimir Tarasenko had a simple answer when asked about the hats raining down from the sellout crowd at Scottrade Center on Saturday.

"It was nice," Tarasenko said.

Tarasenko scored his first Stanley Cup Playoff hat trick to help the Blues defeat the Minnesota Wild 4-1 in Game 2 of the Western Conference First Round series at Scottrade Center on Saturday.

The best-of-7 series is tied 1-1 with Game 3 at Minnesota on Monday (8 p.m. ET; CNBC, SN1, TVA Sports 2, FS-MW, FS-N).

Tarasenko, who had four goals in six games in his playoff debut last season against the Chicago Blackhawks, has seven in his past eight playoff games. His two goals in the first period set the tone for what the Blues wanted to accomplish after losing 4-2 in Game 1 at home Thursday.

Tarasenko didn't have a shot on goal in Game 1.

"This is a win. This is 100 percent [a] win," Tarasenko said. "There's no time to celebrate. We have a tough couple games coming [up]. Just bring the good part and make the next step right now. We just win. It doesn't matter how many goals you have."

Patrik Berglund scored for St. Louis, and Jake Allen made 24 saves for his first NHL playoff victory. Alexander Steen and Kevin Shattenkirk each had two assists; Shattenkirk has four assists in the series.

"We took a big step," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We know we have to play better. Now we've got to go steal a game. We've been a good road team all year, actually we've been a great road team."

Tarasenko gave the Blues a 1-0 lead with a redirection off Steen's wrist shot inside the blue line 14:18 into the first period. He scored his second of the period on a power play with 1:59 remaining after he took Steen's cross-ice pass and banked a shot in off Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk, who peeled off the near post, for a 2-0 lead.

Tarasenko completed the hat trick with an empty-net goal with 16.1 seconds remaining.

It was the first playoff hat trick for the Blues since April 12, 2004, when Mike Sillinger had three goals in a 4-1 win against the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference Quarterfinals.

"I think the chemistry with Steen and Tarasenko is off the rush," Hitchcock said. "They can find each other."

Steen said, "We do a lot. We constantly talk, mostly in English, trying to work out details in our game and, yeah, tonight was good."

Dubnyk took blame for the second goal.

"That's just a mistake by me. It's not a good goal," he said. "I came off my post on a guy [who] likes to shoot, who's got a pretty good shot, and he made me pay for it. That’s a mistake by me that cost me a goal against. Make sure it doesn't happen again."

Defenseman Marco Scandella scored for the Wild. Dubnyk made 23 saves.

"I thought we played two good games," Wild left wing Zach Parise said. "You find yourself down 2-0 here early, but we got ourselves back in the game. It was just a couple that we couldn't capitalize and put in the net.

"Overall we'd love to be going home 2-0 but it's 1-1. There's a lot of things we can feel good about. Of course there are areas for improvement, but there's a lot of things that we've been doing pretty well."

The Blues played a better first period than in Game 1. There were 18 hits in the period, led by David Backes (four), Steve Ott (three) and Ryan Reaves (three).

Establishing a good forecheck was what the Blues were looking for to offset the Wild's speedy transition game.

"I thought we came out, we had a game plan in Game 1 which was similar to that but it didn't show up, and in Game 2, it did," Ott said. "That's the difference, that's the team that we are and who we've been all year, and it's no secret that that's how we have to play to have success. I thought to a man, from our goaltenders out, everybody played their role and extremely hard."

Allen made several big saves, perhaps the biggest off a harmless dump-in off the stick of Wild defenseman Ryan Suter, who threw the puck off the glass. The puck took a strange carom and fell at Allen's skates, nearly going in the net.

With 4:49 left in the second period, Allen made a glove save of a sharp-angle Mikko Koivu shorthanded shot while sprawled on the ice after Jason Zucker shot wide on a 2-on-1.

"Me and [forward Jaden Schwartz] both got a piece of it," Allen said. "My glove was there, I sort of didn't want to move because [Koivu] didn't have an angle so he was trying to get close to me and [Schwartz] made a heck of a backcheck to get back there and we both sort of got a piece of it and he swatted the puck away. He's one of the best back-checkers in the League, so credit him for that."

Dubnyk kept Tarasenko from getting a hat trick earlier with a save off a Steen pass with 52 seconds left in the second period.

Scandella scored 1:46 into the third period to make it 2-1 on a slap shot from the left point, breaking his stick on a shot that had eyes and beat Allen on the near side after a drop pass from Thomas Vanek.

The Wild continued to press for the tying goal in the third period, and Charlie Coyle nearly tied it with 8:37 remaining. His wrist shot from the slot hit the crossbar, went off Allen's back, and Backes saved the puck from going in by clearing it off the goal line.

"I think we can take some confidence out of the fact that we won the one game and played pretty strong in the second game and even to battle back against a team that is tough to generate offense against, that’s a pretty good sign," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "But going back home doesn’t guarantee anything either. They’re a good team. We have a lot of respect for them, so we know we’ll have to be at our best."

Berglund gave the Blues a 3-1 lead with 1:58 remaining after stealing puck in the neutral zone, skating in and beating Dubnyk with a wrist shot.

"It was a goal-scorer's goal," Hitchcock said. "If you're going to have an odd-man rush, he's not fast enough. He's going to shoot, which is good for us."

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