By Craig D. Schroepfer
After losing Game One to the St. Louis Blues, the belief was that if the Minnesota Wild plays like they did on Wednesday, they’ll win this series in six games.
After Game Two, the feeling around the State of Hockey is this series may be done in four games.
A late goal by Jaden Schwartz at the 17:33 mark of the third period gave the Blues a 2-1 victory and a two-games-to-none lead in this best of seven series.
St. Louis scored the first goal of the game once again as Game One-hero Joel Edmundson fired a shot from the blue line, giving the Blues a 1-0 lead at 3:51 in the second period.
From that point on you could feel the tension in the building as goaltender Jake Allen looked to be dialed in once again.
Minnesota did get a break late in the second period when they got a five-on-three power play as both Alexander Steen and Scottie Upshall found themselves in the penalty box.
With the two-man advantage, Zach Parise was able to cash in on a loose puck and beat Allen, tying the game 1-1.
For most of the third period, overtime looked to be lurking once again. That was until the 17:33 mark, when Jaden Schwartz pulled up and fired a high shot through a screen and past the glove of Dubnyk, giving St. Louis a 2-1 lead.
“I just hopped on the ice and it happened pretty quick,” Schwartz said. “I was calling for it and Perron did a great job of driving the net. He created that by backing the whole defense off. I think I shot it through his legs and Dubnyk didn’t see it.”
“I didn’t see the puck.” Dubnyk said of the game-winning goal. “That’s why they drive the net and he shoots it. When it’s tied like that any play can be the difference.”
At the start of the game, Minnesota came out flying, looking like they picked up right where they left off. As the game progressed, though, the Blues were able to clog up the ice and not allow Minnesota’s speed to be a factor in the game.
For most of the night, the Wild seemed to be chasing the puck, always a step or two slow getting to it.
“They were being more aggressive in our zone,” Head Coach Bruce Boudreau said. “They clog the middle of the ice up and they have six big defenseman. It’s hard to get through.”
One thing St. Louis is doing well in this series is winning the battles five on five. Through two games, the Blues have yet to give up a goal five on five — and that is something the Wild need to figure out and fast.
“They are sitting five guys when we are in the zone, right inside the hashmarks and blocking shots,” Parise said. “That’s something we are going to have to figure out if we want to get some goals and win some games.”
Game Three is Sunday in St. Louis. Losing the first two games at home in the Stanley Cup Playoffs isn’t a death sentence for teams, but it does greatly reduce the margin for error. The Wild know their backs are against the wall.
“That’s our mindset right now, just Game Three. Go in and win those battles,” Charlie Coyle said. “They came into our building and took two. We need to go back and do the same thing. We’re focused on the next one.”