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Zulgad’s 5 thoughts: Wild remain alive, Coyle provides spark, Dubnyk stellar between the pipes

The Wild will live to play a least one more game this season.

After losing the first three games of their opening-round series to St. Louis, the Wild got goals from Charlie Coyle and Martin Hanzal and 28 saves from Devan Dubnyk on Wednesday in a 2-0 victory over the host Blues in Game 4. It was Dubnyk’s second career shutout in the playoffs.

Coyle, who scored the Wild’s only goal in Game 3, might have had his best game of the season in Game 4. He created numerous scoring opportunities and set himself up for Minnesota’s first goal.

Game 5 will be at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

In its quest to rally from a 3-0 deficit, Minnesota is trying to do something that only four teams have done. There have been 180 teams that fell behind 3-0 in a series and soon thereafter had their season come to an end.

“With the two days off, I thought the players handled it well amongst themselves,” Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said. “They didn’t let themselves get down, they faced some bad times in the last six weeks and they didn’t get themselves down. It’s only one game. They’ve still got a tremendous advantage, (up) 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.”

Dubnyk told Fox Sports North: “I think we did a great job of just worrying about winning one game and not thinking about the task that’s ahead of us. We came in here and did what wanted to do. That’s win one game. We need to approach our next game the exact same way. We have an opportunity to go back home and we need to win one game. After that game hopefully we can plan the same thing, but it’s all going to come down to Saturday for us.”

Here are five thoughts from Wednesday’s game.

Improved start

After playing a listless first period in Game 3 on Sunday, the Wild dominated much of the opening period Wednesday and came away with a 1-0 lead thanks to Coyle’s second goal of the series.

The Blues came out looking tentative and had iced the puck six times by the 10-minute mark of the first. That was after St. Louis iced the puck nine times in all of Game 3.

The Blues, who were outshot 11-4 in the first 20 minutes, did not get their first shot of the first until halfway through the period when David Perron’s shot was gloved by Dubnyk.

Coyle made it 1-0 at 16 minute, 50 seconds when he dumped the puck into the Blues’ zone from center ice. Blues goalie Jake Allen, who is excellent at playing the puck, went behind the net to do exactly that and shoveled it up the left wing boards.

Coyle had rushed to that side, knowing that Allen would play the puck that way. Coyle then intercepted the left-handed shooting Allen’s clear outside the left wing circle and let go with a shot before Allen could recover and get set back in his own goal.

The lead was the Wild’s first in the series.

“It felt different,” Coyle said of getting a lead. “You get the momentum right off the bat. It feels good. You’re not playing from behind and trying to rush and kind of force things. You just stick to your game and I felt like we did that.”

Coyle has been one of the Wild’s best players in this postseason. “Everyone’s mindset is you have to step up at playoff time,” he said. “You have to bring your level up. That’s my mentality, that’s my team’s mentality.”

Blanking the Blues

Dubnyk had given up only six goals in the opening three games, but he had been overshadowed by Allen’s spectacular performance.

But on Wednesday Dubnyk had his best game of the series as he blanked the Blues. Dubnyk saw only four shots in the first period, but he stopped 12 shots in the second and 12 in the third.

This included making a save on a breakaway by Blues defenseman Joel Edmundson in the third period and then stopping four more shots on the ensuing power play St. Louis went on after Ryan White was sent off for slashing Edmundson. Dubnyk later made back-to-back saves on Alexander Steen and Alex Pietrangelo on close in opportunities.

“It was good to see for him,” Boudreau said of Dubnyk’s play. “He works so hard and everybody’s willing to criticize him, but I thought he was really good tonight.”

This was the exact type of game that the Wild needed from Dubnyk and he provided it.

No power on the power play

The Blues’ penalty kill continued to do an excellent job, shutting down back-to-back Minnesota opportunities in the second period. That left the Wild 1-for-12 in the series with their only goal coming from Zach Parise during a 5-on-3 advantage in Game 2.

The Wild also has been very good at killing penalties, holding St. Louis to one power-play goal on 11 opportunities in the series. The Blues were 0-for-2 on Wednesday.

While the Wild did not score on the power play in the second, they did take a 2-0 lead on Martin Hanzal’s snap shot from the slot that beat Allen to the blocker side at 16:41. Jason Pominville fed Hanzal with a pass near center ice that the big center brought into the zone before scoring his first goal of the playoffs.

“Marty was a beast I thought,” Boudreau said. “Probably his best game in our uniform.”

Containing Tarasenko

Two years ago when these teams met in a first-round playoff series, Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko had six goals in six games, including a hat trick in Game 2.

But Tarasenko, who led the Blues in scoring this season with 39 goals and 75 points, hasn’t been nearly as big of factor in this series. Through four games he has two assists, although he did set up the game-winner in overtime of Game 1.

Tarasenko entered Wednesday with 12 shots on goal and had four more in Game 4.

Juggling the lines

Boudreau had attempted to downplay his juggled line combinations in Tuesday’s practice but the Wild coach ended up mixing up things in a big way.

This included separating center Mikko Koivu and right winger Mikael Granlund for the first time since late November.

Boudreau’s new lines featured Hanzal between Jason Zucker and Pominville; Eric Staal between Coyle and Granlund; Koivu between Nino Niederreiter and Parise; and Joel Eriksson Ek beween White and Chris Stewart.

“There were some lines getting stale,” Boudreau told NBC Sports Network when asked about the changes. “They did great all year, but they hadn’t scored in a lot of games, so I thought a little change might do them good.”

Boudreau reportedly sent out different line combinations for the pregame skate in an attempt not to tip his hand to the changes. “When you’re down 3-0 all the tricks are out of the bag,” Boudreau said.

Erik Haula, who started the series playing on the wing with Koivu and then moved back to his natural center position for Game 3, did not play because of an undisclosed injury.

Haula was hurt near the end of the second period in Game 2, but attempted to play through the injury that occurred when he took a hit from behind near the boards from St. Louis’ Scottie Upshall.

  • Mark

    I’d say it’s about time but I’m still skeptical that they did anything but delay the inevitable. Can Dubnyk do this 3 more times and can this team finally be the team we saw until March. I’d love to be wrong about my past takes but I still see how hard it is for our team to score goals. I will refrain from criticism for now but this is only one game and they have to get lucky. Yes lucky! The Blues came so close to scoring in that game with a few hit pipes. I can’t help but think watching them struggle to mount any kind of scoring that if one of those pucks goes in we panic big time. I saw hustle last night but I also saw panic in their game. I still believe this team lacks confidence to carry on to the next round but if they’re to get to the next round they must throw caution to the wind and quit second guessing their moves and play with reckless abandon because they still have to win 3 in a row.





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