Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Perron hat trick leads charge in 4-0 win over Wild in Game 1

Blues forward gains measure of satisfaction, relief after 
missing 2020 postseason with positive COVID-19 test

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Last year, David Perron was helpless and beyond frustrated.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Brayden Schenn (left) congratulates David Perron after scoring one of his
three goals in a 4-0 win against the Minnesota Wild on Monday.

And he was reminded just how much it was one of the hardest things for him to have to watch his teammates battle in the Stanley Cup playoffs against the Colorado Avalanche.

"Are we going to talk about this," Perron jokingly asked postgame Monday.

Yes, and since it was important to connect the days since that sweep at the hands of the Avalanche last year to Game 1 against the Minnesota Wild in the Western Conference first round series this year, there certainly had to be some pent-up energy for the veteran forward.

Perron certainly was rewarded for his efforts in a 4-0 win with his first playoff hat trick and four points with an assist. It certainly was a rewarding feeling after feeling like he had his hands tied behind his back last season with no chance to play superhero. 

Perron was hit with a positive COVID-19 test, and his season, in essence, ended after a 19-goal, 58-point output.

"Yeah, well it was tough for sure to not play last year, but that was the situation," Perron said. "I felt pretty good all day as far as nerves. 

"... I think the worst part was just not being a part of the team, just helping out however you could. I was literally going crazy. I couldn’t get out of the basement. The kids, I could hear them running around upstairs. So, tough situation."

So tough when Perron woke up that May 17, 2021 day, he and his Blues teammates were ready to engage in battle. One quick phone call ended it all, shockingly.

"Well, I think it was probably the morning of. You get the first test and you’re like, ‘Wow, like no way, there’s no chance,'" Perron said. "Then, you hope for a false positive, but the next day the levels kind of got worse so you knew it was a real one. Obviously there’s a little bit of game management by coach not really saying too much. I just kind of knew I would have to sit for 14 or 10 days. It is what it is."

That wasn't the case on Monday. Nothing was going to keep the 33-year-old off the ice in what was going to be the beginning of a grueling playoff series.

"He mentioned he wasn't here last year; he mentioned it to me today," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "Obviously bugged him. It was a tough break last year for him. 
"He was really good tonight on the power play. He just did his job like he normally does for us."

Like he normally does, as in put himself in the left circle, waiting for that in-stride pass or waiting to pounce on rebounds and rifle them into the back of the net.

He did just that, not once, not twice, but three times against friend, former teammate and fellow Quebec-ian Marc-Andre Fleury.

"Obviously, like you said, we know each other very well," Fleury said. "He’s a good shooter. He’s always a threat around the net, I know. It seems like every puck on the power play just ended up on his stick, back door there. And he’s a good player, he put them in."

In a game that was oozing emotion and physicality right from the get-go, that all-important first goal would prove to be pivotal.

It came at 6:15 of the first period, and Perron provided it, with the Blues putting their No. 1 road power-play to good use with Jordan Greenway in the box for roughing. The Blues work the high-low play to the bumper, get a shot from Ryan O'Reilly. Fleury made the save, but Perron was there to hammer home the rebound and silence -- or induce boo's from the 19,053 in attendance that didn't agree with the call.  

"Just rebound goal, trying to put on net," Perron said. "I know there’s a few seconds left on the power play, maybe one second and I was able to put one home. We do a good job of pre-scouting what we want to do on the penalty kill and the power play and it’s nice to connect for sure.

"... I think it’s important, the older guys just trying to weather the storm early on, and I thought we did a good job of that, getting the first goal. We kept building from there. A lot of penalties throughout the league tonight, it’s probably a standard they’re trying to set right now. Obviously we’d like to stay out of the box a little bit more, but also we’re fine with that. We’ll keep pushing forward."

After Perron did one of his numbers of protecting the puck and feeding Justin Faulk, it helped set up O'Reilly's rebound goal at 15:56 for a 2-0 lead, and it helped Ville Husso, who earned his first playoff shutout with a 37-save effort, settle into the game.

"I don’t like to pump (Husso's) tires when he’s here," Perron joked. "Obviously I’m a huge fan of 'Huus.' Even from four years ago, when he was a Black Ace, I just saw how hard he worked, how passionate he is for the game and you’re happy for guys that earn everything they have and he’s certainly done that. The improvement he made over the summer, too, coming in and being ready whenever his name was going to be called upon. Learning the league last year a little bit too. We’re extremely proud of him. We want him to keep going and it’s good to get the first one of out of the way, for his nerves and all that."

The Wild made their second-period push, and Perron was there to rescue, and for all intents and purposes, a comeback by the home side. It was the Blues' second power-play goal in as many opportunities, and guess who was in the box for the Wild again: Greenway. 

Perron's cross-ice pass was slightly deflected on its way to Brayden Schenn, but Schenn still was able to get a shot off, with Fleury making the save, only to have Perron in his house, the left circle, collect the rebound and wire the shot past Fleury and a screening Brandon Saad at 16:30.

"He's a very good power-play guy," Berube said of Perron. "He's been a good power-play guy for some time now, whether it's shooting or he makes plays. He's competitive, he hangs onto the puck and doesn't lose it. He's a real good power-play guy."

And if the final nail in the coffin wasn't delivered by DP57 in the second period, he emphatically hammered home a series-opening win in the third period when he pounced on another rebound, the third assist from Torey Krug, who delivered a sharp-angle one-timer. Fleury made another save, but there's Perron, Johnny-on-the-spot again from the bottom of the left circle to complete the hat trick, only there would be no hats.

Perron didn't care. But he did become the 14th Blue to have a playoff hat trick, the first since Jaden Schwartz had one in San Jose in a 5-0 win on May 19, 2019.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
David Perron become the 14th Blue in their playoff history to record a
hat trick Monday in a 4-0 win over the Minnesota Wild in Game 1.

"It’s always good to have a 3-0 lead, but they get one goal and all of a sudden the building is back and they’re coming," Perron said. "They’re nipping at our heels again. That’s why it was important that we stay on it the whole time.

"Yeah, after all these years, it’s a long way coming for many reasons, many ways, so obviously I’m proud of that. It’s super cool. I have a lot of pride wearing the Blue Note, and yeah, I’ll leave it at that."

Perron certainly left it at that Monday, an emphatic win, and he can now finally lay last season's exclusion from playoff participation to rest.

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