Following Wild games, Manager of Digital Content Mike Doyle will give the Five Takeaways that he remembers from the contest. Tonight, he looks back at a 4-1 win against the St. Louis Blues in Game 5 of the First Round:
After his worst game in a Minnesota Wild sweater, goaltender Devan Dubnyk went pirate in Game 5, battening down the hatches and leading the team to a 3-2 series lead against the St. Louis Blues. The netminder was nearly unbeatable, stopping 36 of 37 St. Louis shots, including 19 in the game’s final 20 minutes.
This was the atypical game of the series, thus far. The Wild rode a hot netminder to steal one on the road. For the first time in five contests, the team that scored first lost the game. In a fight-for-every-inch series, the scores have surprisingly been lopsided.
The challenge will now be for Minnesota to string together two wins in a row, something that hasn’t happened yet. The series moves back to Minnesota with a chance for the Wild to close it out on home ice. Game 6 is scheduled for 2 p.m. State of Hockey Time at Xcel Energy Center.
I think I’ve figured out why Dubnyk is so comfortable in St. Louis. The Notes’ rally chant of “Let’s go Blues!” sounds an awful lot like “Let’s go Duuuuubs!” In the opening period, Dubnyk came out with a big response effort. Following his six-goals-against performance in Game 4, the netminder stopped 11 of 12 Blues shots and was a rock in goal. He had virtually no chance on the lone goal he allowed, a power play goal off the stick of Vladimir Tarasenko.
In the second, Dubnyk made the save of the game. Blues forward Alexander Steen received a cross-ice pass at the left hash mark. The netminder sprawled across, making a spider-monkey kick save. It was just what the Wild needed, as the team shortly scored a pair of goals after the stop.
Before the game, Dubnyk was named one of the National Hockey League’s three Vezina Trophy finalists along with Montreal’s Carey Price and Nashville’s Pekka Rinne. It was a well-deserved nod to the netminder who helped save the Wild’s season. The 28-year-old went 27-9-2 with a 1.78 goals-against average, .936 save percentage, five shutouts and two assists in 39 starts for the Wild — including a franchise-record 38 consecutive starts, which ended with a victory in Chicago clinching Minnesota’s playoff berth on April 7.
With the slow start, Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo shuffled up the lines in an attempt to find a spark. He placed Nino Niederreiter with Mikko Koivu and Chris Stewart and moved Jason Zucker to the wing with Charlie Coyle and Thomas Vanek. The Niederreiter-Koivu-Stewart combination was a familiar one: they played well together before the return of Zucker. Well, tonight Niederreiter relished the reunion.
Before the game both teams talked about how there has been no room for offense and that players had to fight for every inch. Well, that or get a little creative in finding room to maneuver. Niederreiter did just that on his second goal of the playoffs. Following a faceoff win, he never stopped moving his feet the entire shift. After helping his linemate, Stewart, gain control in the corner, he shifted to the front of the net. He created space in the slot by giving a push to the back of Blues defenseman Barret Jackman and opening for a pass. It was just enough room and Stewart found him for a one-timer. Switzerland is known as a neutral, peaceful country, but the Chur native has a missile of a shot and he used it on his second goal of the playoffs.
In a seven-game series between two evenly matched teams, sometimes it is a little puck luck that can mean the difference between winning and losing. While Dubnyk wasn’t letting anything by him, his counterpart Jake Allen didn’t help himself.
At critical juncture near the end of the second period, the Wild was up a goal and on the power play. Minnesota captain Mikko Koivu took the puck to the net and tried to make a cross-crease pass to Stewart on the backdoor. However, the Blues netminder got a stick on it to break up the attempt. Unfortunately (for Allen and St. Louis) instead of tipping the puck out of harms way, he redirected the puck into his own net.
After struggling on the power play during the regular season (the club ranked 27th in the League at 15.8 percent), Minnesota has been scorching in the postseason. The club scored its fifth power play goal of the series and moves to 5-for-11, leading the NHL in playoff power play percentage (45.5 percent).
If Dubnyk had the tough night in Game 4, Friday was a rough one for Allen, as he got off to a bad start, too…
Allen didn’t have much to do in the first, which might’ve been a problem for the goalie. In the first half of the opening period, the netminder was as bored as a kid stuck inside on a rainy summer day. The Blues netminder didn’t face a shot on goal until the 11:06 mark of the first period and it was a doozy. Defenseman Marco Scandella breezed down the left wall and hammered a rocket, high to Allen’s glove. The cold goalie got a piece of it, but not enough and the puck bounced into the back of the net.
Goaltenders often talk about liking to face shots early in the contest so they can get locked in. Tonight, it seemed like Dubnyk was the benefactor of early saves, while Allen started out cold and couldn’t find a rhythm.