Thursday, April 20, 2017

Blues fail to close out Wild, fall 2-0 in Game 4

Dubnyk pitches 28-save shutout; St. Louis heads to Minnesota for a Game 5

ST. LOUIS -- The Blues said all the right things, they knew what was coming.

Yet somehow, with another chance -- on home ice -- to close out a postseason series, St. Louis failed to accomplish their feat, and now have to head back on the road with another opportunity against an opponent that picked up some life.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues left wing Jaden Schwartz (17) is stopped on a backhand attempt by 
WIld goalie Devan Dubnyk, who blacked the Blues on 28 saves in Game 4.

Devan Dubnyk made 28 saves, and goals by Charlie Coyle and Martin Hanzal were enough for the Minnesota Wild to defeat the Blues 2-0 on Wednesday in Game 4 of the Western Conference First Round series before 19,791 at Scottrade Center.

The Blues, who lead the best-of-7 series 3-1, now head back to a building they won Games 1 and 2, back to Xcel Energy Center for Game 5 on Saturday (2 p.m.; NBC, KMOX 1120-AM) with another chance to close a series out.

Last season, the Blues needed three tries to close out the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round and two tries against the Dallas Stars in the second round before closing both series out in seven games.

And knowing the Wild, which had its backs against the wall, would come out and try to throw every punch at the Blues, they didn't have the necessary answers. Minnesota outshot the Blues 11-4, who looked a step slow and were hemmed in their zone.

"They're a good team, they came at us, I think we weathered it decently," Blues forward Alexander Steen said. "We make a couple mistakes and it ends up in the back of our net. They're defensively good and solid and we had some chances in the second half of the game but didn't solve Dubnyk tonight. We'll regroup, get recharged and ready for the next one."

"Obviously whether it's lack of desperation or nerves, we were on our heels," Blues coach Mike Yeo said. "We let them dictate and not a good recipe."

"We just came out slow, I thought we were a little casual to start the game," Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. "They were taking advantage of that in the first. We got the pressure on them in the third."

Jake Allen made 26 saves for the Blues.

"It took a little bit for us to get going," Allen said. "They obviously came out hard and played a really good 40 minutes, they played a pretty solid defensive third period. We had a really good push in the third and it was a little too late."

The Wild played much of the first period in the Blues' zone and had opportunities at Allen, but the Blues goalie was sharp again.

But the Wild took advantage of a tremendous break on Coyle's goal when Allen went behind the net to play the puck, threw it off the wall where Coyle was there to intercept it and slung it into an empty side at 16 minutes, 50 seconds of the first to make it 1-0, the Wild's first lead of the series in 214:38.

The Blues thought the play was going to be whistled as an icing, and Allen and defenseman Robert Bortuzzo were there near the puck, and when Allen whipped it from behind his net off the side boards, Coyle intercepted it.

"Yeah there were some finicky calls there for the icings tonight on both sides," Allen said. "Some were icing, some might should not have been, some should have been ... it was a different game from that standpoint.

"I just threw it up the boards like I usually do. Luckily they had a guy there, not a big deal."

It wasn't until the second period where the Blues finally started to get some sustained pressure on Dubnyk, but had some of their bubble burst when Hanzal scored to give Minnesota a 2-0 lead at 16:41 of the second period.

Hanzal's goal was the cushion the Wild needed and it came as Nate Prosser's outlet feed to Pominville turned into a quick lay-off pass to Hanzal, who built up a burst of speed through the neutral zone. He gained the blue line and with Blues defensemen Alex Pietrangelo and Jay Bouwmeester laying back, Hanzal snapped a shot stick side by Allen. 

"We started turning it a little bit, but again, details of our game that cost us that one," Blues forward Alexander Steen said. "Again, I think throughout the course of the game we were just a second off. We needed to be a little quicker, a little sharper to create the havoc and earn those goals.

"... It's a tough game. They've all been close. We didn't match their urgency early, a couple mistakes and we don't solve Dubnyk."

The Blues, who outshot the Wild 24-17 over the final two periods, were going to get their opportunities in the third period, but Dubnyk was up to the challenge; he made a save on Joel Edmundson's break-in from the left to keep it a 2-0 game and prevent the crowd from getting any sort of life.

(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues defenseman Jay Boumeester (right) goes to
check the Wild's Mikael Granlund on Wednesday.
"Obviously we didn't score any goals tonight, so we need some offense," Yeo said. "Last game we had one 5-on-5 goal. Both teams are playing very tight. I think they recognized that. They did a nice job of it tonight. They played well, they played well in their own zone. They pressed real aggressively. I thought as the game went on, we started to deal with that a little bit better. But the biggest thing for me is we had opportunities in the first period to shoot the puck and we're looking for a different play. Not only do we not get a shot, but it leads to a turnover. Certainly I think we can put a lot more pressure at their net. It's something that they're doing to us and we have to find a way to do it to them."

Allen made sure the Blues were within striking distance, making a good amount of saves himself. His best was an alert save on Nino Niederreiter with 12:26 remaining in the second period.

"I don't think it's too hard, you know. Get rid of the loss here tonight, look what we could do better tomorrow, get a good practice in and head to Minnesota," Allen said. "We've had lots of success in that building, so hopefully we can have another good game this weekend and go from there."

Blues left wing Vladimir Sobotka momentarily left the game after being struck by a Vladimir Tarasenko shot from the slot. Sobotka needed help to the bench and down the tunnel to the locker room and appeared to be in some serious discomfort. However, he returned to the game and finished with 19:59 of ice time.

The Blues, who fell to 2-4 in closeout games the past two seasons, will hope to end the series in Game 5 now.

"We knew it was going to be a tough (series) against these guys," Steen said. "It's a game, we lost it, we've got to recharge and get ready for the next one."

"It was there in the third, it just wasn't there in the start," Pietrangelo said. "We need to do better and be ready for Saturday. 

"We should've expected that – down 3-0, they're going to come out and give us their best game. Simple as that."

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