It took just 40 seconds for the Minnesota Wild to break the stressful stalemate between these two clubs, and it could not have been a prettier, more energetic goal.
After getting to be the off-puck side of a 2-on-1 breakaway with linemate Joel Eriksson Ek, Greenway put his entire weight behind a one-timer that might have decapitated someone sitting in the first row behind the net if it wasn’t caught by the twine first.
And it didn’t take long to settle in and be even more comfortable with the scoreline, as Kirill Kaprizov pulled out another trick from his bag and doubled the lead just over two minutes into the game.
Only Kaprizov could make us gasp in awe and burst out laughing within the same second. Hilariously, the St. Louis Blues’ hero of the series Ville Husso was made to appear extremely foolish as the puck bounced off the back of his pad and into the back of his net after Kaprizov went for the second chance behind the net, and we will for sure believe that this was on purpose.
For the rest of the first, the Wild controlled play, ending the period with a 2-0 lead built on outshooting the Blues 12-10, outshot-attempting them 21-17 and getting loads of opportunities directly in front of Husso. Throw in a strong early performance from Marc-André Fleury and a team-wide disinterest in the Blues’ extra-curricular shenanigans, and you’ve got a recipe for success.
The Blues’ brought the physicality after going down so early, but it cost them defenseman Torey Krug, who left the game after taking a run at Matt Boldy in the first. If Krug joins an already full stable of injured defencemen for St. Louis, it may prove to be the key to potential victory for the Wild.
Much has been made of the Blues’ second-period dominance during the regular season — they had a league-best +51 differential — but for the second night in a row, their second-period supremacy didn't show up on the scoreboard.
It was the Kaprizov line that showed up on the board for the second time tonight.
3-0 lead with approximately a period and a half to go—an excellent place to be.
The third period started with a familiar sight: a swift goal from the GREEF unit, who were on one. One of the keys to success for tonight — or any other night against the Blues — is to meet their physicality but to stay out of the stuff between the whistles that allows their elite powerplay to flex their superiority. When Joel Eriksson Ek, Jordan Greenway and Marcus Foligno play with this approach, there isn’t a line in the NHL that can play with them.
With a 4-0 lead, the Blues’ fate tonight was more or less sealed. In true, annoying O'Reilly fashion, Ryan O’Reilly got the goal to break Fleury’s shutout a couple of minutes after Eriksson Ek’s. But with an empty-net goal from Jonas Brodin in response to a very aggressive goalie pull by Craig Berube near the seven-minute mark of the third, the Wild coasted to their second victory in a row and their first lead of the series.
Fourteen more to go.
Can the Wild just go one game without special teams' drama and stay out of the box?
Just as Mary J. Blige intended, there is no more drama in the Wild’s lives.
The calls were even, as the Wild only took three penalties — including a bench minor for too many men — to the Blues’ four, made even more impressive by the approach the Blues’ took to try and climb back from an early deficit. Lots of after-whistle kerfuffles, shoves and chirping, but the Wild abstained for the most part. Their physicality was still there, but they weren't easy to goad into retaliatory penalties.
It was a good, clean hockey game, even though St. Louis tried their best to make it anything but.
Will Kevin Fiala get on the board?
He won’t, but that doesn’t mean he’s not trying. Three shots, six shot attempts and a few outstanding opportunities. For a player who was white-hot coming into the playoffs, his lack of production and even visibility on ice is lacking.
GREEF and the Kaprizov line are carrying the load, but the Wild offense isn’t as terrifying as it could be without a productive Fiala.
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