Wild stave off elimination with shutout victory over St. Louis, plan ahead for Saturday
ST. LOUIS -- What does this version of the Minnesota Wild have in common with the 2014 Los Angeles Kings, the 2010 Philadelphia Flyers, the 1975 New York Islanders and the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs?
All of those teams successfully staved off elimination in Game 4 while trailing 3-0 in a best-of-seven NHL playoff series.
Yes, the Wild still have a long way to go to become the fifth team in league history to accomplish the miraculous comeback. That said, they got the start they needed with a 2-0 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday night at Scottrade Center.
"Well, we're alive," Zach Parise said. "That's what we talked about. Just small picture. We got the first step going, and we'll prepare again. You've got to start somewhere."
Charlie Coyle and Martin Hanzal scored goals and Devan Dubnyk was brilliant in a 28-save shutout as the Wild stayed alive in the Western Conference quarterfinals with the series heading back to the Twin Cities.
Game 4 is set for 2 p.m. Saturday at the Xcel Energy Center.
The impressive performance from the Wild came after days of saying the right things leading up to the must-win game. Dubnyk refused to acknowledge anything past Game 4, Nino Niederreiter leaned on cliches, and coach Bruce Boudreau continued to stick up for his team.
"If we don’t believe, then why do we go?" Boudreau asked before his team boarded a flight to St. Louis. "I firmly believe that we’ve got a shot.”
While the Wild ended the night looking at a 3-1 series deficit, the comeback bid started with some mind games from Boudreau, who rolled out fake lines in warmups in an act of gamesmanship not often seen at this level. As soon as the game started, Boudreau had a completely new set of lines.
"I mean, we didn’t do that in the regular season," Boudreau said. "You’re down 3-0, all the tricks are out of the bag type thing."
His newest creations paid dividends late in the first period as the Wild took their first lead of the best-of-seven series. It took 214 minutes, 38 seconds to happen. It also took an uncharacteristic blunder from Blues goaltender Jake Allen, who had otherwise been unflappable.
Nevertheless, in the midst of a stretch in which nothing was finding the back of the net, the Wild weren't complaining late in the first period when Allen misplayed a puck behind the net and teed up Coyle for a gift-wrapped goal.
That forced the Blues out of their muck-it-up style and allowed the Wild to play more freely up and down the ice.
"We weren’t having to chase it," Boudreau said. "We could do a little bit more with the lead. Any team can do a little bit more with the lead than chasing the game."
In the second period, Hanzal sniped a wrist shot stick side on Allen to give the Wild an even bigger lead.
"It was huge," Boudreau said. "It was a great release and a great shot."
That was more than enough support for Dubnyk, who wasn't going to let the Wild lose on this night, capping his shutout with a 12-save third period as the Wild held on for the win.
"We just said coming into this game that we needed to win one game," Dubnyk said. "You know, the only thing that mattered was this one game. This was our Stanley Cup, and it's going to be the same thing on Saturday because if not it's over. We aren't going to think any further ahead than that. It's going to be the exact same approach on Saturday, and we'll see what the score is when the buzzer ends."