Cam Tucker

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Wild blank the Blues to stave off elimination

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For the first time in this series, the Minnesota Wild managed to grab the lead — courtesy a rare mistake from Jake Allen, who has been brilliant in net for St. Louis.

It only took until the fourth game, with the Wild facing the possibility of a sweep in the opening round.

Charlie Coyle benefited from the Allen error, as he took advantage of the turnover from the Blues netminder after he played the puck from behind the net. The Wild forward immediately fired the puck toward the net, catching Allen just out of position.

Martin Hanzal added the second Minnesota goal and Devan Dubnyk did his part, making 28 saves, in a 2-0 victory Wednesday. The Wild force a Game 5 at home on Saturday.

Prior to this game, Allen’s play had been the main reason why the Blues held a 3-0 series lead. He had been dominant, with a .974 save percentage entering Wednesday’s contest. He was still very good, particularly as the Wild pushed early for the opening goal.

At one point, the Wild had a 11-1 advantage in shots when they took advantage of the Allen mistake.

The game ended with some fireworks, as Alex Pietrangelo drilled Zach Parise with a huge hit in the final seconds, causing a massive scrum along the boards.

Blues forward Vladimir Sobotka was hurt in front of the Minnesota net early in the third period, but he did return to the game a few minutes later.

Babcock: ‘We weren’t ready to play’ in Game 4 defeat to Capitals

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The opportunity was certainly there for the Toronto Maple Leafs to put the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Washington Capitals on the ropes in their first-round series.

Instead, the Maple Leafs had a bad first period in Game 4, surrendering two goals in the opening 4:34 and then giving up two more goals to Tom Wilson later on to trail 4-1 after 20 minutes.

A mistake at the defensive blue line in the third period led to T.J. Oshie‘s eventual game-winner. Despite another valiant comeback effort, and outshooting Washington 19-3 in the final period, it wasn’t enough this time for the Maple Leafs.

That bad start proved costly for the Maple Leafs, as Washington evened the series 2-2.

“We weren’t very good,” said Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock. “We weren’t ready to play. They were more competitive than us at the start.

“I thought they won all the battles and all the races. I thought they were quicker today. I thought we looked slow and I thought they looked fast.”

Through four games of this series, the Maple Leafs have been incredibly pesky — even tonight, they scored in the final minute to once again pull within a goal and give their fans one last gasp of hope of possibly tying it and forcing overtime for a fourth straight game.

That is of no consolation.

Because as young and inexperienced as the Maple Leafs are compared to their opponent, the chance to put the Capitals down 3-1 as this series shifts back to Washington was there for the taking.

“Well, we don’t think we’re hanging with them. We want to be in the driver’s seat,” said defenseman Morgan Rielly.

“It’s playoffs. I don’t think they should be putting us away. I think we feel like we can come out and control the game. It’s not about hanging on and trying to squeak one out. It’s about controlling the play … and going out and winning the game.”

That didn’t take long: Flames goalie Elliott given the hook early in first period

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It appears Brian Elliott was on a short leash. A very short leash.

The Flames goalie was given the hook just 5:38 into the first period of Game 4 after allowing a (very) soft opening goal to Patrick Eaves of the Anaheim Ducks. Chad Johnson entered the game to replace Elliott.

The Flames need a win to stave off elimination and a first-round sweep to the Ducks.

After blowing a three-goal lead that resulted in a devastating overtime loss in Game 3, the Flames had a horrible start in Game 4.

With Johnson into the game, Ducks’ forward Nate Thompson increased Anaheim’s lead just 1:08 later, silencing the home crowd in Calgary.

Blues will be without Paul Stastny for Game 4, as they look to sweep Wild

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On Tuesday, Paul Stastny returned to practise, providing a sense of optimism that he could possibly return to the St. Louis Blues lineup as they looked to sweep the Wild.

However, the official word from Blues coach Mike Yeo hours before Game 4 was that the 31-year-old center will not play tonight.

Stastny hasn’t played since March 21 because of a lower-body injury, yet he still had 18 goals and 40 points in 66 regular season games.

Watch Blues vs. Wild: Game 4 at 9:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, NBC Sports app

The way this series has evolved over the last week has been one of the bigger surprises of the playoffs so far. The Blues lead the series 3-0 and have held the Wild to a total of just three goals, thanks in large part to the spectacular play of goalie Jake Allen. He’s currently sporting a save percentage of .974.

That has been the ‘X-factor’ for the Blues in this series, which they can close out tonight.

“We’re not fools. We know what’s at stake here,” Yeo told reporters. “We’re focused on our opponent, on expecting a very, very strong game from them, the same way they have every other game.”

Trotz: ‘I don’t think there’s any doubt,’ as Capitals fall behind underdog Leafs

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After back-to-back losses against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Washington Capitals are facing questions pertaining to past playoff failures.

The young and talented Maple Leafs, who didn’t clinch the second wild card spot until the final weekend of the season, have taken a 2-1 series lead on the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Washington Capitals, after an overtime victory on Monday.

Not only did the Maple Leafs win, but they erased a two-goal deficit and got stronger as the game continued, particularly in the third period when on two different, lengthy occasions, they held the Capitals without a shot attempt.

Watch Capitals vs. Maple Leafs: Game 4 on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN, NBC Sports app)

William Nylander had a plus-18 Corsi For rating at even strength, while Auston Matthews was a plus-12 in that category. Both scored their first career playoff goals. They weren’t the only Toronto players with lofty possession numbers. Morgan Rielly and Jake Gardiner also dominated in this aspect, with Rielly had a pair of assists.

They now hold the advantage over a team favored to win it all this year, after previous playoff disappointments that followed highly successful regular seasons. The history, at least right now, cannot be ignored.

“Until we change the narrative, that’s going to be the question,” Matt Niskanen told the Washington Post. “It’s up to us to change it. You can’t talk about it. You just have to go and do it.”

This loss hinged on a failed five-on-three power play opportunity for the Capitals and a successful power play from the Maple Leafs, with Tyler Bozak scoring the winner, in overtime.

All three games in this series have gone beyond regulation, but this goes beyond the Maple Leafs simply making life miserable for the Capitals.

“It’s not over yet,” said Alex Ovechkin.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt,” added coach Barry Trotz. “It’s the first team to four [wins]. We’ve got some room here.

“I think, for the most part, we’re in a better place to handle that. We want to create some new ground, just like the Leafs are trying to do. They’re trying to break through. We’ve got to break through. Our resolve’s being tested.”