Saturday, April 15, 2017

Schwartz late goal gives Blues 2-1 win over Wild Game 2

St. Louis takes 2-0 series lead back to St. Louis 
for Game 3; Edmundson scored again, Allen sharp

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Another unsung moment for Joel Edmundson, and a clutch goal from Jaden Schwartz have the Blues sitting pretty in their best-of-7 Western Conference First Round series against the Minnesota Wild.

Edmundson scored his second goal in as many games, and Schwartz scored the eventual-game winning goal with 2 minutes 27 seconds remaining to give the Blues a 2-1 win over the Wild in Game 2 on Friday at Xcel Energy Center.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues players, Alex Pietrangelo (top), Jay Bouwmeester (19) and David
Perron (right) celebrate with Jaden Schwartz after Schwartz scored the
game-winner in a 2-1 win in Game 2 over the Minnesota Wild.

The Blues, who take a 2-0 series lead back to St. Louis, where they'll play Game 3 on Sunday at 2 p.m., have won the first two games in a playoff series on the road for just the third time in franchise history. They beat Chicago in 1993 and Dallas in 2001 and swept both series; they're 11-1-1 in their past 13 road games dating back to the regular season. 

But after being outshot 52-26 in Game 1 and rode the acrobatics of goalie Jake Allen in goal, who made stunning save after stunning save before Edmundson won it in overtime, the Blues were much more structured in their game and limited the Wild to 24 shots.

The game featured plenty more physicality, and the Wild brought it trying to level the series up going back to St. Louis, but the Blues matched all comers and are sitting in a great spot headed back to the friendly confines of Scottrade Center.

"It's a good start for us, but the job's not over yet," Schwartz said. "We know the last two are going to be the hardest and it starts in Game 3. They're going to throw everything at us and we're excited to go home for sure. We did a good job so far, but we know it's going to get a lot tougher."

Mike Yeo didn't want to sound like someone who felt fortunate to win the opener, but the Blues coach and former Wild coach had to be pleased with the execution of Game 2. 

"We didn’t lose Game 1, we did enough things to win a hockey game," Yeo said. "Obviously Jake was outstanding in that game but he wears a jersey for a reason. He’s part of our group. I think what we saw in Game 1 was it was a very even game until we got the lead and then we backed off a little bit. So we knew we had to be more aggressive, more assertive in our game. We knew we had to tweak a couple things and adjust a little bit and find a way to get better between 1 and 2 and I think we did that today. And now we’re gonna have to do the same thing.

"We obviously limited the shots against tonight, much better job of that. And again, nothing’s changed. This is a group that still challenges you, that’s still tough. They’ve still got a lot of players over there, and the way they throw pucks at the net, it’s challenging. But we’re digging in on it, and so far, we’ve been good at it. We’ve got to make sure that we continue to get better as a group. And we’ve got to do that both with and without the puck."

The Blues seemed to get under the Wild's skin, and Scottie Upshall and Ryan Reaves were at the forefront of it for the Blues. Reaves was having a war of words with close buddy and former Blue Chris Stewart, and the two were throwing their heavyweight bodies around aplenty.

Reaves is the godfather of Stewart's two kids and best man in his wedding.

"Good friends off the ice. Archenemies on the ice," Reaves said of Stewart. "… That's hockey. It's the nature of the business. When you play with a guy for four, five years and he gets traded, especially in your division, you go out for meals with him in the regular season, then get back to being an enemy on the ice. I expect it to be a battle all series."

With the game tied 1-1 and the teams playing 4-on-4 after Upshall and Charlie Coyle took matching roughing penalties with 4:03 remaining, the Blues broke the draw when Schwartz got a puck from Alex Pietrangelo, used a screen from David Perron after Perron drove the net, and beat Devan Dubnyk high glove side through a screen.

"I think I just hopped on the ice, was calling for it and 'Perry' did a great job of driving the net and he kind of created that whole thing by backing the 'D' off and I think I shot it through his legs," Schwartz said. "Dubnyk couldn't see it. That doesn't happen if 'Perry' doesn't drive the middle."

Pietrangelo had just enough time to see Schwartz coming off the bench.

"They changed and I was going to go back with it but I saw Schwartz in the corner of my eye so I figured I’d try to get a break there. One heck of a shot," Pietrangelo said. "We talked about that, getting through the middle. A good shooter knows when to take the shot. As soon as 'Perry' cleared the way there, it was a perfect shot."

Playoff scoring guru Edmundson got his second of the series to give the Blues a 1-0 lead on what turned into a delayed penalty as Magnus Paajarvi was dumped going to the net. 

The Blues got an extra skater on, and Edmundson's one-time blast from the blue line beat Dubnyk short side after a feed from Patrik Berglund at 3:51.

"It was a delayed penalty so that kind of opened up the zone for us," Edmundson said. "Me and 'Bergy' played some catch with it up top, fed me the onesie and there's bodies all over the place in front of the net. I just tried to hit the net and luckily it went in."

Edmundson had no celebration after scoring in OT Wednesday, just drew a great big smile after. This time, there was more reaction.

"Yeah, a little bit. Like I said in the first game, I'm not the type of guy to skate off and go celebrate by myself, so I kind of just stood there and waited for them to jump on me," Edmundson said. "Tonight, a little different. I kind of had a little more time to celebrate, but I mean I'm just happy we were able to get a win tonight."

The Blues carried a lot of the play in the second period but then got into some penalty trouble late in the period and Parise cashed in his second of the series with a two-man advantage.

Alexander Steen was in the box for a really questionable holding the stick penalty, and Upshall was called for elbowing Nino Niederreiter to give the Wild a two-man advantage for 1:25.

Parise was able to quickly get a puck in front of Allen and roof it with 2:16 left in the period to tie the game 1-1.

So in two games, Allen has a 0.87 goals-against average and .974 save pefcentage and has given up two goals: one on a 6-on-5 and another in a 5-on-3 situation.

"Yeah, it was a good win," said Allen, who made 23 saves. "It was a better game, but we've still got a ways to go. I don't think we're satisfied with the way we're playing yet. A huge two wins for us, but we haven't seen our best."

"We looked at some things and obviously Jake was the biggest issue in Game 1, and we looked at some things we did a little bit better," Yeo said. "We needed Jake to be great again tonight, and so what we've done up to this point is great, but we're going to get more focused on what we need going forward."

The Wild held a 9-5 shots advantage in the first period but the Blues held their ground on a Wild power play at the end of the period and did a fantastic job of not giving anything to shoot at despite a lengthy zone opportunity for Minnesota.

Then, the Blues began to work. 

"I think we just got on our toes, we got a little bit more aggressive," Schwartz said. "They're a team that likes to come out and get a fast start in their building, get the crowd into it and we did a good job of weathering it. Tied after one on the road isn't a bad position to be in, but we had to get better as the game went on. We did a pretty good job of that."

And coming the fact the Blues played like a team wanting more than just a split on the road says something.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues defenseman Joel Edmundson lets out the emotion after scoring in 
Game 2 against the Minnesota Wild on Friday.

"Everyone says you want to try to make sure you come back 1-1, but we weren’t happy with the way we played in Game 1 and got away with the win," Pietrangelo said. "I think we can still get a lot better. There are still things we need to try and get better on. It’s nice going back on home ice. We’re going to get the matchups we want, but that’s playoff hockey. You’re not always going to play the way you want but you have to find a way to win."

"Yeah, it's great," Allen said. "Obviously a big win the first game and to come out tonight and battle, we knew we were going to get a better effort from them. It was a little different, the game was more physical, but guys stepped up, blocked shots. It was rough and dirty on both ends, it was playoff hockey and a big goal at the end."

"I'm excited to go home, get a good practice in tomorrow and be ready. We're going to see their best game on Sunday, so we're going to have to be on our toes, be aggressive and be ready to go."

* NOTES -- The Blues inserted Robert Bortuzzo into the lineup for Jordan Schmaltz, and Jori Lehtera was a healthy scratch in favor of Zach Sanford.

Bortuzzo played 12:35 playing with partner Carl Gunnarsson and Sanford played 12:29 on a line with Steen and Vladimir Sobotka.

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