Led by Dubnyk, Wild give Blues playoff deja vu
ST. PAUL, Minn. — For the Minnesota Wild to advance further in the playoffs this time, they’ll need more production from players beyond the first two lines.
Like Charlie Coyle.
Devan Dubnyk? They’ve already got a good idea about what they’re getting.
Coyle scored twice, including 21 seconds after a power-play goal by Zach Parise late in the second period, and the Wild picked up where they left off last spring against St. Louis with a 3-2 victory over the Blues on Saturday night.
Dubnyk made 30 saves for the Wild, who eliminated the Central Division champion Blues in the first round of the playoffs last season in six games and held on for the win in their home opener despite being outshot 13-1 over the final 20 minutes.
"I thought the best player on the ice was their goalie today," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "He was very good in the third period when they needed him. We had point-blank chances, we hit crossbars, but he played really well in the third period. When they needed him, he stood tall."
St. Louis star Vladimir Tarasenko, who put seven shots on goal, scored on a power play early in the third period after a double-minor penalty on Thomas Vanek for high-sticking. Alexander Steen had the first goal for the Blues. But the defense had a couple of costly lapses in front of Jake Allen, who stopped 16 shots.
The crowd taunted Allen by chanting his last name a few times, repeating the jeer heard here in the Western Conference quarterfinals last season, but he was hardly at fault for the pucks that slipped past him. Allen stopped a pair of breakaways, too, by Coyle and Jason Zucker.
Coyle gave the Wild the lead with 8 seconds left in the first period on a pure hustle goal, when he split Carl Gunnarsson and Kevin Shattenkirk at the blue line and chipped the puck to himself for a slick backhand flip into the net.
"Nice shifty little move. Not many guys usually throw it back against the grain like that. It was a skilled play on his part," Allen said.
With the Blues back at full strength following Parise’s go-ahead goal, Ryan Suter’s slap shot pinged off the left post. Vanek, who was given initial credit for the goal, snagged the skidding puck and sent a centering pass to a charging Coyle for the two-score lead.
"It’s just moving your feet, moving the puck and getting into position," Coyle said.
Said Dubnyk: "He looked like Marshawn Lynch out there."
With Coyle and Vanek, there’s plenty of potential for the Wild’s third line to be a major part of the offense this season. Coyle has one of the best blends of size and speed on the Wild’s roster, but he has yet to top 12 goals in a season.
"I don’t know if he’s changed something or what. He’s just been able to pick up a lot of speed through the neutral zone this year," said Parise, who had a hat trick for the Wild on Thursday night at Colorado.
Hitchcock used his challenge after the Wild’s third goal, seeking a review of whether Coyle interfered with Allen before the puck crossed the goal line, but the call on the ice was confirmed, forcing the Blues to forfeit their timeout.
The Blues brought back Hitchcock following their latest early exit from the playoffs, aiming for a more aggressive, physical style. One of the pieces of this approach was the signing of center Kyle Brodziak, who played the last six seasons for the Wild and was honored with a brief video tribute and a scoreboard close-up so he could smile for the camera during a break in the action.
NOTES: Blues forward Robby Fabbri left in the first period after taking an elbow to the head. "It affected us quite a bit," Hitchcock said. … Parise has 13 goals and six assists in 23 career games against the Blues, including last year’s playoff series. … Tarasenko had nine goals in 10 games against the Wild last season, including the playoffs. … The Wild have never lost a home opener in regulation, going 13-0-2 since Xcel Energy Center opened in 2000.