Blues take 1-0 series lead after goalie
steals game on road with 51-save performance
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- For someone that missed every second of Game 1 between the Blues and Minnesota Wild on Wednesday night, looking at the stats from a Blues perspective, one would have felt they were down 1-0 in the series.
But two words defied all those odds: Jake Allen.
With a little help in the end from unlikely hero, Joel Edmundson.
|(St. Louis Blues photo)|
Blues defenseman Joel Edmundson (top) is all smiles celebrating with
teammates after scoring the game-winner in OT of Game 1 Wednesday.
Allen was brilliant and gave the Blues every opportunity to steal a game, and Edmundson provided the heroics scoring with 2 minutes, 12 seconds remaining in overtime to give the Blues an improbable 2-1 victory before 19,168 at Xcel Energy Center.
Allen was a brick wall, a monster, a beast that covered every possible inch of the goal and was 22.7 seconds away from a road shutout, but in a game in which the Blues were doubled up in shots on goal (52-26), their goalie stole them a victory, and they lead the best-of-7 series 1-0 because of it.
"You see this from the stands," Blues right wing Vladimir Tarasenko, who got the assist on the Edmondson winner, said of Allen. "Like I said, we all need to help him and we can't leave him like this to make these unreal saves five, seven times a game. We need to play better defense and be on the same page more."
It was that kind of night for Allen, who could go off the film and create a highlight reel of some of the spectacular saves he made, with the most impressive coming with 3:22 remaining in the second period with a larcenous glove save on Charlie Coyle.
"I got a win for us. We wanted to come in here and get a good, solid effort, and we came out on top in the first game," Allen said. "That's crucial for us. It's a tough building to win in. And we got the job done.
"They were throwing a lot at me, but my job is to stop the puck and give the boys a chance. A big win for us."
Indeed it was and left coach Mike Yeo at a loss for words.
"I don't know that I really can (describe it)," Yeo said of Allen's performance. "I've had time to think about it too. I know that was going to be the first question and ... phenomenal performance. That's about all I can say against a team that really challenges you, not only obviously the quality of scoring chances, but the pressure at the net. The way he controlled shots, situations, rebounds, the puck, it was obviously an impressive performance."
Defenseman Colton Parayko can describe it.
"He was unbelievable, save after save" Parayko said of Allen, whose 51 saves are fourth on the all-time franchise lost behind Curtis Joseph, who made 61 saves in the 1993 divisional final and 57 in the same series, and Ed Staniowski, who made 54 saves in the 1976 preliminary round.
"He was making it look easy out there," Parayko said of Allen. "It was unbelievable to watch and for us to be a part of it was just that much better."
And despite succumbing late, when Zach Parise tied the game after the Wild pulled goalie Devan Dubnyk for a sixth attacker, Allen and the Blues regrouped and found a way.
"I think we did a good job as a group (in the locker room before overtime)," Allen said. "We still had a good attitude. It going to happen, it's tough, it's hockey and they had a good push there in the third. Good play by them. We came back and I thought we had a pretty decent overtime."
An overtime that ended when Edmundson pinched in on Tarasenko's power move to the net after slipping past Wild captain Mikko Koivu. Tarasenko was trying to beat Dubnyk high short side but lost the puck, it went through the slot and Edmundson was there to punch it into an empty side for his second career playoff goal.
"That's up there for the best one," Edmundson said. "It beats the one last year in Dallas (in the playoffs). I'm just happy the team could get the win tonight.
"I hopped on the ice and … they took it to the net and I went down and it popped right to me so I had a pretty wide open net."
Tarasenko took an outlet pass initially from Alex Pietrangelo, went cross-ice to Jaden Schwartz, who was able to pivot and go off the boards backhand to Tarasenko down low. Tarasenko was able to beat Koivu and Edmundson read the play perfectly looking perhaps for a rebound.
"Good play by 'Schwartzy,' then I beat my guy one-on-one," Tarasenko said. "Try to go short side up, but it was like low backdoor.
"It was nice 'Eddy' score this goal. But we need to work a little on celebrations though. It was a really hard game. It's 15 minutes past midnight. We need to rest and be ready for the next one."
Vladimir Sobotka also scored for the Blues, his second in as many games after signing a three-year extension last Thursday after terminating the remainder of his contract with Avangard Omsk of the KHL.
"It feels great," Sobotka said. "I mean, I was really excited to come back and try to help the team."
In a tightly-checked first period, the Wild held a 10-9 edge in shots, and both goalies were up to par.
Allen had the best save of the period, denying Erik Haula's breakaway with roughly 12 minutes remaining after he picked Jordan Schmaltz's pocket after Schmaltz moved a puck up ice to Tarasenko, who in turn returned it back to Schmaltz in a dangerous spot.
The Wild were buzzing in the second period, outshooting the Blues 16-6, but Allen was a brick wall, and Sobotka took advantage of a Wild turnover for the first goal of the game.
Sobotka scored from the slot after Alexander Steen picked off a Jonas Brodin clearing pass off the glass, found Sobotka in the slot, and his wrister deflected off Christian Folin, off Dubnyk's glove and in at 6 minutes, 21 seconds for a 1-0 lead.
"I'm just trying to shoot more," Sobotka said. "I mean Jori (Lehtera) had a strong play on the faceoff, 'Steener' had a good read, I just waited for the puck and tried to go high glove. But I think it was tipped by the d-man."
The Blues failed to convert on two power plays, and that's when Allen took over, twice on Jason Zucker after a Patrik Berglund giveaway in the offensive zone, then he lost a puck in the zone.
Allen stopped Zucker from in tight, and then provided some highway robbery on Coyle right in front after a rebound of a Zucker shot.
Allen did all he could but needed one more save. He couldn't get it before time ran out in regulation, as Parise scored a sixth-attacker goal with 22.7 seconds remaining on a play from Mikael Granlund from the right circle to Mikko Koivu in the slot, who redirected the puck to Parise at the side of the net and he slammed it into the side past Allen to tie the game 1-1.
"It's one of those things where you knew what had to do to get done," Parayko said. "It was a 1-1 hockey game on the road in the first game, we were in a great spot even though they scored that goal. They're going to score, too, this series, so we knew what we had to do and had to go out and do it.
"It's obviously not the best feeling. In the playoffs, things happen so fast. Whether we win or lose a game, it's one of those things where you have to stay on an even level. If we let that feeling go into overtime it might be a whole different scenario so you have to keep moving forward in the playoffs. There's not enough time to lean back on those things."
But in playoff games, goalies can be called upon to steal games. Consider this one for the Blues.
"My job's to stop the puck, so I have no choice," Allen said. "... We're going to expect the same from them next game. They're going to throw everything at the net and they have a really good offensive team. But guys did a really good job tying up some sticks when packs were scrambling in front of the net, so kudos to them.
|(St. Louis Blues photo)|
Blues goalie Jake Allen was phenomenal in Game 1, stopping 51 shots to
help the Blues take a 1-0 series lead with a 2-1 overtime win.
"Honestly, a lot of shots from tough angles, I did a pretty decent job at keeping pucks away from their players. That's their forte, that's how they score – a lot of skilled guys that can make quick plays in front of the net."
"He was unbelievable," Parayko said of Allen. "Save after save, he was making it look easy out there. It was unbelievable for us to watch and us to be part of, it was just that much better.
"He made some big saves, he held us in all game. We're always trying to make it easy on him but he made it easy on us tonight. That was a determined group and both sides and he was awesome."