The Blues spoiled new Wild head coach Bruce Boudreau’s unveiling with a 3-2 loss at Scottrade Center. Alexander Steen, Nail Yakupov, and Magnus Paajarvi’s goals were enough to beat the Wild that just couldn’t establish itself in the offensive zone with much of anything resembling a forecheck. Getting heavily out-shot through two periods, the Wild made it easy on Jake Allen and things just too tough for Devan Dubnyk in between the pipes for their respective teams.
The first period started off with a clang as Marco Scandella rang the post behind Jake Allen. After that unregistered shot on goal, however, the Blues took the period over. Racking up eight shots before the Wild got its first shot on goal. That shot came on a Jason Zucker short-handed breakaway in which Allen had to be equal. After the power play expired Minnesota may have had five skaters on the ice, but it sure looked like an extended power play as the fourth line got stuck, smothered if you will, in their defensive zone. A couple failed clearing attempts, a weak check, and a puck that squirted loose, allowed Alexander Steen to give the Blues an early one goal lead. It capped a dominating start for St. Louis that had 14 shots on goal to the Wild’s 2 in the period.
The second period started with a Wild power play that ended up going nowhere. Minnesota was 0-for-5 with the man-advantage and couldn’t muster much aside from a few shots on Jake Allen. At the 3:03 mark of the second period Ryan Suter tied the game. He pick-pocketed Vladimir Tarasenko, got a chance in alone on Allen. The Blues’ netminder made a big stop initially, but Suter stuck with the play and shoveled the puck home with back-hander.
The hope was that the goal would energize the Wild in hopes of putting together a decent road period. They got a couple more breakaways as Eric Staal got a chance and was stopped on an amazing save by Allen, and Parise was stopped on another chance when all chaos was breaking loose on the ice. Mikael Granlund got level by Colton Parayko, to which got a resounding applause from the St. Louis faithful. Scandella took exception to the hit and went after Parayko. In all of this confusion and cheering from the crowd, Parise got the puck alone in the slot and Allen made another save.
Nail Yakupov had just arrived in St. Louis after being acquired by sending an ECHL player, and a conditional 3rd rounder to Edmonton. It was nearly nothing in which to risk to acquire the former first overall pick. He fired a slap shot that burned a hole in Devan Dubnyk’s glove and trickled into the net to give the Blues the 2-1 lead halfway through the middle stanza. The Wild took a couple careless penalties to give St. Louis more chances, often coming close to scoring again, and putting the Wild in a two goal hole. Chris Stewart got into scuffle after holding Robby Fabbri’s stick and then decided to drop the gloves needlessly sending him off for two and ten. Shots were 24-10 after two periods.
It looked like the Wild were coming off the back-to-back to start the third period. The fourth line was a defensive mess all night long and it led to what would eventually become the game winning goal. Magnus Paajarvi was the benefactor of a 3-on-2 break and a nice feed from fellow former Oiler Yakupov. it looked like the Wild were just going to roll over and look to come back on Saturday to take on the Jets on home ice. That was until head coach Bruce Boudreau put Charlie Coyle and Jason Zucker together on a line. The two besties clicked right away. Zucker kept advancing the puck forward and one a battle for the puck along the boards into the corner. He picked his head up and found Coyle open on the far side post and fed him a laser of a pass. Coyle then roofed it past Allen to bring the Wild within one.
Minnesota needs to find the offensive zone before they can find the back of the net on the power play in the next game, as well as being able to bury the puck on odd-man or breakaway chances. The Wild had three giant breakaways and were stopped each time.
Minnesota made it interesting in the final minutes, however, the sloppiness in the defensive zone, the inability to get much of anything in terms of pucks on Allen, and the failure of the power play was too much to overcome. The 2016-17 Minnesota Wild open the season with a loss. They’ll open home ice Saturday to take on yet another Central Division rival.
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