Minnesota went on the road and beat the St. Louis Blues 4-2 in the opening game of their first-round playoff series. The Wild won Game 1 of a series for the first time since their first-ever playoff game against the Colorado Avalanche in 2003.
Jason Zucker scored the opening goal, Matt Dumba scored a power-play goal in his first NHL playoff game and Mikael Granlund and Jason Pominville added empty-net goals for Minnesota, which is now 2-7 in the first game of playoff series including five overtime losses. Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk stopped 19 of the 21 shots he faced in his first NHL playoff game, as well.
Perhaps being on the road it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Minnesota was able to win Game 1. Before losing at St. Louis in the regular-season finale, the Wild had tied the NHL record with 12 straight road wins.
However, Thursday’s win is just the third win in the last 19 playoff road games.
Granlund’s goal held up as the game-winner and he is now tied with Nino Niederreiter and Wes Walz for first in franchise history with two career playoff game-winners.
1. Zucker, F, Wild: What a return to the lineup for Zucker. Zucker missed 27 games with a broken clavicle and returned to score four times in the season’s final four regular-season games. Then he adds his second career playoff goal on Thursday.
Zucker used his speed to make the play happen. While Minnesota changed lines behind him, Zucker pulled up with the puck before deciding to dart past a St. Louis defender. Zucker’s initial shot was from a wide angle and the puck bounced back to him, allowing Zucker to speed around for a wraparound on a wide-open net.
Zucker missed the playoffs last year because of an injury. He made an impact Thursday even when he wasn’t scoring. He was active, had four shots on goal and was also part of the penalty kill, which held St. Louis scoreless in two chances.
In just 51 games during the regular season, Zucker tied for third on the Wild with 21 goals. Minnesota was 12-3-2 when Zucker scored.
2. Jaden Schwartz, F, Blues: On a team full of big bodies, Schwartz gets by with his relentlessness. Schwartz is a very active player and is the glue to St. Louis’ offense. He led all Blues forwards with three shots on goal.
Schwartz tipped a Kevin Shattenkirk point shot past Dubnyk to make the game 2-1 midway through the third period and give St. Louis life. Skating across the crease, he made a nifty tip with the end of his stick, to propel the puck down and past Dubnyk.
3. Dumba, D, Wild: Perhaps Minnesota forward Charlie Coyle (three shots on goal, four hits in a physical effort and two blocked shots) deserves this spot, but we’ll give it to Dumba, the rookie defenseman.
Dumba provided some breathing room for the Wild with his power-play goal in the second. Dumba had a big windup and blasted the puck past Blues goaltender Jake Allen. Dumba’s shot is a big weapon on the power play and he showed it again Thursday.
Dumba also held up defensively against the bigger St. Louis forwards, adding two hits.
Seen: Special teams played an important role, as one would expect in the playoffs. Minnesota was 2 of 4 on the power play and stopped both of the Blues’ chances. Special teams changed the flow of the game in the second period as the Wild had three power-play chances and scored with Dumba’s goals.
In the first, St. Louis had controlled the play. The special teams slowed the game down a bit in the second and Minnesota took advantage of its chances while thwarting the Blues. The Wild led the NHL with an 86.3 percent penalty kill rate this season, including a 90.8 percent mark in the second half of the season.
Said: "It was awesome. It’s crazy to think about the journey, but it just feels, it’s felt right this whole time. Surprisingly, not really any nerves going into the game. I think we just have such a good feeling as a group here and I got a whole ton of confidence in the guys in front of me. I wasn’t sure how I’d feel, but it was good. The guys worked so hard in front of me again, so that allows me to settle in." — Dubnyk.
Next: Game 2 of the series is Saturday in St. Louis. The teams will play a matinee affair, which begins at 2 p.m. Central time.