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Wild hang on for Game 1 win against Blues

by Louie Korac / NHL.com

ST. LOUIS -- The Minnesota Wild took home-ice advantage away from the St. Louis Blues with a 4-2 win in Game 1 of their Western Conference First Round series Thursday.

Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk made 19 saves in his Stanley Cup Playoff debut, and Minnesota got goals from Jason Zucker, Matt Dumba, Mikael Granlund and Jason Pominville.

The Wild prevented the Blues from playing their game, which is getting pucks in deep and working on the forecheck. They took away the middle of the ice, clogged up the neutral zone and utilized their speed.

"For us, when we're playing well, that's what we're doing," said Minnesota forward Zach Parise, who had two assists. "That's one of our strengths, is playing a fast game, a speed game. We want to dictate the pace of the game. They're going to get their chances.

"They're a big team, a physical team. Our D did a good job of getting the puck and getting out of the zone."

The victory was the Wild's first in Game 1 of a playoff series in eight tries; they had not won a series opener since their first-ever postseason game, in April 2003. It was Minnesota's second win in 13 road playoff games; they were 1-9 away from Xcel Energy Center the past two years.

"That's a good start for us," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "I think we have to make sure that we use this game, we look at the video, and there's certainly some areas where we know we can be better. But a lot of good things to take from it, for sure."

Game 2 of the best-of-7 series is Saturday at Scottrade Center (3 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, TVA Sports 2).

Jaden Schwartz and Alexander Steen scored for the Blues, who got 25 saves from Jake Allen in his first playoff start.

"They outplayed us in the second period," St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We outplayed them in the first and for a portion of the third, but they outplayed us in the second. They were quicker on pucks, they were faster in the zone. We took a couple penalties that gave them some momentum, gave them a chance to rest. We didn't build on the good first period.

"... I don't know about killer instinct, but we have not played well off of layoffs all year. This is probably another example of that. But we've had another game under our belt; we're going to have to play better. Killer instinct comes in a number of fashions. One of the fashions is you really have to simplify your game in the playoffs. I thought when we didn't get the shots through at the start, we started to play a very complicated game that made us at times look slow. We were in to make the next play instead of play it off the goalie."

Hitchcock said he plans to start Allen again in Game 2.

Zucker scored 2:47 into the game after Allen kicked out his initial shot from a sharp angle in the left circle. The puck came back to Zucker, who had a quick burst of speed and scored on a quick wraparound to give Minnesota a 1-0 lead.

"That guy's a speed demon there," Allen said of Zucker. "Good play by him. Wish I could have controlled the rebound a little bit better, but it was a good move by him."

The Blues had the better of the territorial edge in the opening period, but the Wild, who finished with 19 blocks, blocked 12 in the first.

Minnesota increased its lead to 2-0 when Dumba scored a power-play goal on a slap shot 4:10 into the second period. St. Louis defenseman Barret Jackman had a chance to clear the puck but had his attempt blocked in the Blues zone. The Wild kept it in, and Dumba took a pass from Jared Spurgeon and beat Allen high glove side.

"He's a strong kid," Yeo said of Dumba. "He's a competitive kid, and certainly not afraid to go into the corners. He's got the skating ability to escape and help us execute in certain situations, but he's got that competitive nature that's a huge part of it too, especially against a team like this.

"It's one thing to say you want to execute, but they're going to find a way to create some turnovers, and you're going to have to find some opportunities to separate guys from pucks. That's not an easy team to do it against."

The Wild dominated the second period, outshooting the Blues 14-4.

"I think for both teams after many days off, it's like starting a season almost," Wild captain Mikko Koivu said. "It's not an easy thing to do. Your emotions are high; after a couple shifts it goes down a little bit. Second period too; a lot of special teams, which is going to slow the game down."

The Blues were called for three minor penalties in the second.

"Any time you're taking that many penalties, certainly they're going to feed off of that," Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. "Usually we use those penalty kills as momentum-changers for us and we're killing them off. We didn't change the tide as quickly as we wanted to."

Schwartz cut the Wild lead in half when he redirected Kevin Shattenkirk's wrist shot from the blue line at 7:12 of the third period. Schwartz was parked in front of Dubnyk for the tip.

The Blues kept pressing but could not get the equalizer. Granlund's empty-net goal with 1:13 remaining restored the Wild's two-goal lead.

Steen scored a shorthanded goal with 58.7 remaining to again make it a one-goal game, but Pominville scored the Wild's second empty-net goal with 20 seconds remaining.

"We have to leave this one behind and take the good things out of it but move to the second one," Koivu said. "We know the further it's going to go, the tougher it's going to get. We have to enjoy this one for a couple minutes and start to prepare for Saturday's game."

The Blues hope to carry over their play in the third period to Game 2.

"You get down one at home and you hope to pick it up a notch and that'd be a wake-up call," St. Louis captain David Backes said. "It almost took until the third period until we finally got our legs going and played our brand of hockey. We had great chances and created O-zone time, looked more like our game, and we need that for a full 60 in order to win games against this team and another chance on Saturday."

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