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Blues defense stifling Wild offense

St. Louis holds 2-0 lead in series thanks to clogging middle of ice, play of goalie Jake Allen

by Louie Korac / Correspondent

ST. LOUIS -- The Minnesota Wild, who finished second in the NHL with 3.21 goals per game during the regular season, have been smothered and suffocated by the St. Louis Blues in the Western Conference First Round.

St. Louis leads the best-of-7 series 2-0 with Game 3 at Scottrade Center on Sunday (3 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, TVA Sports). 

The Blues limited the Wild to one goal, scored 6-on-5, in a 2-1 overtime win in Game 1 on Wednesday, and a 5-on-3 goal in a 2-1 victory in Game 2 on Friday. St. Louis also held Minnesota to one goal with an extra attacker in a 2-1 win on March 7 during the regular season.

Since Mike Yeo took over as coach for Ken Hitchcock on Feb. 1, the Blues have allowed the fewest goals per game (1.88) and power-play goals (10) in the NHL.

"Tight gap, just focusing in together on playing a tight game," Blues defenseman Colton Parayko said. "I think that when forwards and defense play together, it's hard for them to generate anything. Just go back to [the] last question, (goalie) Jake [Allen's] been outstanding. Fifty-some saves in Game 1 and one goal allowed is unbelievable. It's pretty special."

Allen has an 0.87 goals-against average and .974 save percentage in the series, which leads goalies in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a minimum of two starts. Despite allowing 52 shots in Game 1, the Blues have done a terrific job of clogging up the middle of the ice and forcing the speedy Wild to the perimeter.

Video: STL@MIN, Gm2: Allen drops down to thwart Pominville

"I think we know that the commitment to our [defensive] zone is what's going to win the series," Blues right wing Ryan Reaves said. "You can't win when you're getting peppered. You can't be letting Jake face 50 shots, you can't be giving up a whole lot of goals in the playoffs. It's tough to come back when other teams are throwing a lot of points up. I think we're really committed to the D-zone, we're trying to spend less time there and wear them down in the offensive zone."

That's something the Blues had issues with in Game 1 and corrected in Game 2.

"I think the first game, they were getting pucks behind us and really forechecking and throwing everything at the net it seemed," Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester said. "They did have a lot of shots from the outside, but their team, they go to the net hard. Anything they put at the net is dangerous because they always have guys going there. We're trying to just play the way we do. There's been more of a focus on trying to take away chances from the middle of the ice and around our net. They've been tight games and we've done a pretty good job of that, but so have they if you look at it like that too. We haven't had really a whole lot of real good chances even off the sustained pressure that we've had."

Video: STL@MIN, Gm2: Allen scrambles to make an awkward save

It's why the Blues know it will be imperative in Game 3 to stick to a similar blueprint against a desperate team wanting to get back in the series.

"We need to do a lot of the things that I think we've done well up to this point, from the first game to the second game I think we got better," Yeo said. "I think we got better at taking them away from their game and not letting them get to their game. I think we can still get to our game better. I think we can put them under a little more pressure. I think we can continue to grow our physicality. I think coming back home and forcing them to deal with some of the things we had to deal with in their building, as far as the momentum, as far as the crowd noise, we have to find a way to make that impactful tomorrow. I remember coming in here in the playoffs and this is an intimidating building and I've seen it in the regular season, I'm excited for tomorrow."

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