Blues tame the Wild, take series with 5-1 win
ST. LOUIS — Nick Leddy opened the door. Ryan O’Reilly, Tyler Bozak and Vladimir Tarasenko then kicked it over.
For the first time since the Stanley Cup season, the St. Louis Blues have made it out of the first round. Next stop, Denver. And the Colorado Avalanche.
The Blues said farewell to the Minnesota Wild with a 5-1 win in Game 6 of their first-round series before a sellout crowd of 18,096 at Enterprise Center – loud and proud.
They took the series, four games to two, winning the last three games by a combined score of 15-5.
Jordan Binnington continued his late-season revival, improving to 8-1-0 since being pulled in an early-April loss in Edmonton. And 7-1-0 since switching to those dark pads.
Special teams and strong second periods have carried the Blues all season, and that was the case Thursday.
Despite taking a 1-0 lead, the Blues were outplayed in the first period. They were outshot 10-4 in the first 20 minutes and had trouble navigating the neutral zone against the tight-checking Wild.
But as has been the case basically all season, the Blues ruled the second period. During the regular season, the Blues had a plus-51 goal differential, easily a league high.
Well, they outscored the Wild 3-0 in the second period, and outshot them 21-5. And that was basically that.
The Blues expected the Wild to come out hard, and aided by an early penalty call against Justin Faulk for hooking Joel Eriksson Ek, Minnesota did just that.
The Faulk penalty came just 4:08 into the game, giving Minnesota a chance to score first in a series where the team scoring first had won all five previous games. But the Blues killed it off, and then killed off a subsequent penalty – a phantom call at that – later in the period.
On the second penalty, Brandon Saad was whistled for interference at the 7:54 mark. His crime? Being shoved into Jacob Middleton at the Minnesota net by a Wild player. In any event the Blues killed off the penalty.
After yielding two power play goals in Game 5 on Tuesday – both by Kirill Kaprizov – the Blues were back on their PK game Thursday aided by the work of defenseman Nick Leddy. Leddy saw no power play time Tuesday in his first game back after sustaining an upper-body injury in Game 1 of the series. But he made his presence felt on both penalty kills.
That wouldn’t be the last time Leddy’s name was called in the period. After getting the puck from Colton Parayko at his own blueline, Leddy skated his way up the ice, weaving his way through one Wild player after another.
From just outside the left circle, he sent a shot past Cam Talbot, stick side, giving the Blues a 1-0 lead with 5:01 left in the period. The roof almost came off the place after that one from the crowd at Enterprise.
Talbot, who gave up 16 goals in three games against the Blues this season – all Blues victories – got his first start in two weeks replacing Marc-Andre Fleury. It was a desperation move given how late it was in the series and the Blues’ track record against Talbot. And it didn’t work.
In Leddy’s 124th postseason game, and his third with the Blues, it was just the eighth career playoff goal for Leddy and his first since 2020.
It came on just the Blues’ third shot of the game. They were outshot 10-4 in the opening period by the Wild, who aided in part by the two power play opportunities – the Blues had one – had the edge in play for the period. Minnesota got to most of the loose pucks and stopped the Blues time after time in the neutral zone.
Eriksson Ek left the ice with 21/2 minutes left in the first after taking a stick to the face by a teammate and missed part of the third period before returning.
Then the Blues got their second period mojo working. With Mats Zuccarello off for delay of game midway through the period, Brayden Schenn passed to O’Reilly in the near slot. O’Reilly got the shot off in a blink, scoring for the fourth game in a row and his fifth goal overall of the postseason.
All four of O’Reilly goals during the four-game streak have come on the power play.
Less than four minutes later, the Blues’ fourth line – such as it was in another 11-forward, seven-defenseman game – got on the scoresheet. Rookie Alexei Torpchenko weaved through traffic on a dash to the net. Talbot stopped his attempt but the rebound trickled out to a trailing Bozak. The team’s senior statesman, at age 36 scored his 12th career playoff game to make it a 3-0 game with 6:35 left in the second.
But there was another power play goal, by Tarasenko, before the period ended. Working the puck on the other side, David Perron whipped a puck across the crease to Tarasenko, who closed fast for a net-front goal with just 1:24 left in the second.
It was Tarasenko’s fifth goal in the series, tying him for the team lead with O’Reilly and Perron.
All told, the Blues were 2-for-6 on the power play and 5-for-5 on the penalty kill Thursday.
Wild defenseman Matt Dumba scored 6 ½ minutes into the third period to end Binnington’s bid for his second career playoff shutout. But it wasn’t enough.
Parayko’s empty-net goal with 1:41 to play made it a 5-1 game and gave the Blues 22 goals in the series. That tied the team record for most goals in a six-game series.