The Minnesota Wild suffered one of the worst playoff losses in franchise history on Wednesday night — a 6-1 shellacking at home against St. Louis — and the day after, head coach Mike Yeo did a little posturing.
“There’s still pressure on them,” Yeo said Thursday, per the Pioneer Press. “They think that they’re much better than us, and it’s our job to prove we’re up at that level.”
As for last night?
“It’s not like we played our best hockey and came up short,” he explained.
That message stayed consistent with comments made in the immediate aftermath of Game 4 (basically, “we stunk, let’s move on.”) Zach Parise said his team was “brutal” and Yeo followed suit today, saying Minnesota has plenty more to give — which, apparently, will include a new lineup look for Game 5.
There’s no shortage of candidates to come out after Game 4. Sean Bergenheim played a team-low 10:11 and finished minus-2 on the night, and has been parked in the press box already this postseason. Veteran d-man Jordan Leopold had the fewest minutes among all blueliners and finished minus-3, and with the wealth of options Yeo has at his disposal — Matt Cooke, Jordan Schroeder, Erik Haula, Christian Folin and Nate Prosser all sat last game — there are plenty of new looks he could throw at St. Louis.
Related: Shattenkirk lighting it up as Blues play ‘our game’
The St. Louis Blues couldn’t generate much of anything, just 17 shots on goal on Devan Dubnyk by the end of Monday’s game, and now trail the Minnesota Wild 2-1 in their opening-round series.
That led to plenty of frustration from the Blues after losing to the Wild and having trouble with Minnesota’s team speed in Game 3.
“They’re a team that’s going to be there from the start to the finish. They battle, every single line,” said goalie Jake Allen, as per a video on the Blues’ website.
“I think we’ve got to realize that now and we can’t let the ball slip anymore. That’s the way they play, one of the best teams in the league since Christmas. They had a slow start to the year but since Christmas, they’ve probably been one of the top one or two teams in the league. We’ve got our work cut out for us. We’ve dug ourselves a hole and now it’s time to get out of it.”
At the other end of the rink, Dubnyk didn’t see many pucks his way, but he stopped every shot he faced for his first playoff shutout.
The Wild struck quickly with a pair of goals from Jason Pominville and Zach Parise just 2:05 apart in the second period, taking the lead and they wouldn’t give it up.
“I’ve seen some pretty incredible performances here at home by us,” Dubnyk told the Pioneer Press. “And this ranks right up there with them. There just weren’t any mistakes.”
How quickly things can change in playoff hockey.
The Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues were involved in a tight, scoreless hockey game late in the second period before the host team suddenly took control on the score board. The Wild would eventually earn a 3-0 victory over the Blues to take a 2-1 series lead.
First it was Jason Pominville who got the Wild on the board, tapping the puck into a wide open net on a terrific feed in front. Just over two minutes later, Zach Parise gave Minny a two-goal lead with his first goal of the series, as he found a loose puck amongst a multitude of skates and snapped his shot top corner on Jake Allen.
The trio of Pominville, Parise and Mikael Granlund combined for six points.
That’s all the scoring the Wild would need. Minnesota put on a smothering defensive clinic, allowing just 17 shots on goalie Devan Dubnyk all night.
Dubnyk, who was critical of himself after making a mistake on the Blues’ second goal in Game 2, didn’t allow anything, either. He stopped all 17 shots he faced to record his first career Stanley Cup playoff shutout.
All 30 NHL teams will play on Saturday as the league puts a bow on the 2014-15 regular season, and NBC will be right in the thick of ‘Super Saturday’ with a trio of games — two of which have major playoff implications.
From the network:
NBC will regionalize coverage at 3 p.m. ET, featuring T.J. Oshie and the St. Louis Blues hosting Zach Parise and the Minnesota Wild, while Jonathan Quick and the Los Angeles Kings welcome Logan Couture and the San Jose Sharks.
Coverage shifts to NBCSN at 7:30 p.m. ET, when Milan Lucic and the Boston Bruins travel to Tampa Bay to face Steven Stamkos and the Lightning.
The Minnesota-St. Louis game has significant postseason ramifications. Depending on results, the Wild could end up playing either Anaheim, Nashville or St. Louis in Round 1; the Blues will face either Minnesota, Chicago or Winnipeg. St. Louis could also finish as the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, having already wrapped up the Central Division.
The Boston-Tampa Bay game could decide the Bruins’ season, depending on what Pittsburgh does in its final two games (versus the Isles and Sabres) and what Ottawa does in its last game against the Flyers on Saturday. If the results fall their way, the B’s could be playing for a wild card spot. This game will also be significant for the Bolts, who can still pass Montreal for top spot in the Atlantic Division.
When Jason Zucker suffered a broken clavicle that required surgery back in early February, the Wild said he’d be sidelined for three months.
Zucker made it two.
The 23-year-old drew back into the Minnesota lineup on Tuesday night for the first time since Feb. 9, marking a fairly impressive return from an injury that, originally, looked as though it’d rule him out for the remainder of the regular season.
When news broke of Zucker’s injury/surgery, team doctors gave a 12-week timetable for recovery. But he was back on ice four weeks after sustaining the break and, tonight in Chicago, will make his return in a pretty prominent role — on a line with Chris Stewart and Mikko Koivu.
It’s not surprising Minnesota wants to get Zucker right back into the mix. He was second to Zach Parise in goals at the time of his injury (18 to Parise’s 21) and was the team’s leading sniper at even strength. Wild head coach Mike Yeo praised Zucker’s maturation as a player this season, saying the 23-year-old’s progress “was so high this year.”