The Wild beat the Blues 2-0 on Wednesday night at Scottrade Center, cutting the Blues' series lead to three games to one. (Scott Rovak/St. Louis Blues)
By Rob Rains
It sounds simple, but Charlie Coyle and the Minnesota Wild came into game four of their playoff series against the Blues Wednesday night with one goal – get the series back home.
When a team is trailing three games to none, there really is no need to worry about anything else.
“That was our goal, and we got the job done,” Coyle said. “Now we think about the next one, that’s all.”
Coyle’s first-period goal, capitalizing on Blues’ goalie Jake Allen’s first mistake of the series, started the Wild to a 2-0 win that continued their season for at least one more game.
Game five will be Saturday in Minnesota.
The Wild played as if their season was on the line from the start of the game, when they jumped on the Blues and didn’t let up, finally getting their first lead in the series with 3:10 left in the period on Coyle’s second goal of the series.
Allen was behind his net and played the puck along the boards, where Coyle was waiting. Allen then got stuck behind the net and could not get back in time to be in a position to defend the shot.
The Blues thought icing could have been called on the play, but it wasn’t.
“I’m not going to blame this game on bounces or breaks,” said Blues coach Mike Yeo. “We weren’t good enough. It’s disappointing.
“Whether it was lack of desperation or nerves we were on our heels ... It didn’t feel like our game. We need to do a better job of that. Because we weren’t ready right from the start we scrambled the whole game. We couldn’t grab it back. We can’t be ready to start the game like that and expect positive results.”
Coyle and Wild coach Bruce Boudreau were just happy something finally went the Wild’s way in the series.
“We’ll certainly take a fumble on his part,” Coyle said. “We’ll take it to kind of get us going. We used that momentum the whole way.”
Said Boudreau, “It was one bounce and we were happy to get it believe me. They did what they were asked to do on that play and we got a break. We hadn't had too many in the first three games so we will take all we can get.”
That turned out to be the only goal the Wild would need as Devan Dubnuk stopped 28 shots to earn his second career playoff series. He had played well in the first three games but was overshadowed by Allen’s performance.
“Shutouts always feel good and I felt really good tonight,” Dubnyk said. “We needed to win one game. That was the only thing that mattered. This is our Stanley Cup and that’s going to be the same thing on Saturday.”
The Wild gave Dubnyk a little breathing room when Martin Hanzal got between defensemen Alex Pietrangelo and Jay Bouwmeester and beat Allen for his first goal of the series with 3:19 left in the second period.
Dubnyk took over from there, making 12 of his saves to hold off a late push by the Blues in the third period.
“We were a step slow,” said the Blues’ Alexander Steen. “The decision-making was a little slower today. They were on point, like we expected them to be. Another tight one. We end up losing because of those details.”
Both sides know that the Blues still have the advantage in the series, even if they failed to complete a sweep in a playoff series for the first time since 2001.
“We had a chance to wrap it up at home and didn't make the most of it,” Allen said. “It's a playoff series. We didn't expect to win four straight games coming in. Back to Minnesota, regroup tomorrow and go at it.”
All Boudreau is going to ask of his team is the same effort they put into the game on Wednesday night, not worrying about the fact only four teams in NHL history have ever come back to win a series after losing the first three games.
“It’s only one game,” Boudreau said. “They’ve still got a hell of an advantage, three games to one. I think we can play a lot better still than we played tonight. It’s still going to be an uphill battle.”
NOTES: C Erik Haula was not able to play for the Wild as he still has an upper-body injury, the result of a hard check into the boards in the second game of the series. He played in game three but C Joel Eriksson Ek made his first appearance in the series for game four. ... The Blues used the same lineup for the third consecutive game, but a change could be coming. C Paul Stastny, out since March 21 with what is believed to be a broken foot, has resumed practicing and might be able to play in game five on Saturday. ... C Alexander Steen did not practice for the last days for the Blues as he apparently deals with a lower-body injury, but he was still in the lineup Wednesday night … The starting time for Saturday’s game has been set for 2 p.m.