When your own player’s stick keeps a puck from crossing the goal line to tie the game for you, a victory probably just isn’t in the cards.
That’s exactly what happened for the Minnesota Wild with about nine minutes left in the third period Wednesday in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup playoffs against St. Louis. Matt Dumba put a couple shots on net from the side of the goal. Blues goaltender Jake Allen, who played a very solid game with help from his defensive corps, left some rebounds.
Nino Niederreiter was jostling with a defender in the crease and had a shot at a goal in a crashing-the-net situation. Zach Parise came in to help, but he was tripped up by Allen. In the process, Parise got his stick on the goal line. Inadvertently, it seemed as though his stick was the one that kept the puck from going in.
That was one of the closest chances for the Wild in what ended up being a 2-1 overtime loss. The Wild outshot the Blues 52-26. Yes, that tally indicated just how lopsided the game was in favor of the home team. Minnesota outplayed its opponent, couldn’t bury its chances and got shut down by a good goaltender.
It’s not exactly a new theme for the Wild. But shots on goal and how a team played doesn’t matter at the end of the day. The first game of the series went to the Blues for a 1-0 edge in the best-of-seven series.
Minnesota outplayed its opponent, couldn’t bury its chances and got shutdown by a good goaltender.
It was a good hockey game, which isn’t hard to accomplish when overtime is involved. Oh, and there was the moment Parise found some redemption to tie the game 1-1 with just 23 seconds left in regulation. (No. 11 scoring at 11:11 p.m., so make a wish.)
Mikko Koivu stood in the slot and deflected a Mikael Granlund shot that went over to a waiting Parise on the side, who finished off the play to send the Xcel Energy Center into a frenzy. The Blues were looking for a shutout on the back of Allen and a second-period goal from Vladimir Sobotka that deflected off the Wild’s Christian Folin.
“We gave ourselves a chance at least,” Parise said. “We extended the game, and then you never know what can happen in overtime, but… we’ve got to score more than one.”
The intermission between the end of regulation and overtime was almost a momentum killer. The Wild certainly would have loved to keep going and ride the adrenaline wave to a win. They had their chances in overtime, too, just like the rest of the game. It was the Blues’ playmaker Vladimir Tarasenko who made his moves into the offensive zone, got around Koivu and gave the puck to Joel Edmundson for the game-winner with 2:12 left in the first overtime.
Without a doubt, the Wild player most deserving of banging his head against a wall wondering why he didn’t score was Charlie Coyle. He crashed the net all game long and could not make the goal light turn on. One point-blank shot went into the glove of Allen, who emphatically grabbed the puck out of the air. He was right out front late in overtime with another point-blank chance, perhaps one of the cleanest of the night, and then his stick shattered on the shot.
They had their chances in overtime, too, just like the rest of the game.
It wasn’t just Coyle. Chris Stewart couldn’t quite find the handle on the puck when he had an open net to shoot at in the first period. Erik Haula and Granlund had their own golden chances and couldn’t convert. It was a combination of Allen coming up with the big saves, Blues players doing a good job around their own net and perhaps a little bit of puck luck. Only finishing on one of 52 shots on goal is still frustrating and disappointing. On the other hand, this game also showcased how important goalies are in the postseason. It’s a very simple and somewhat obvious angle that people brush off, but it’s true. Goaltending can make or break a series.
It’s natural for all the pumped-up energy to start the playoffs in game one of a series, especially for the home team. Everybody wants to get off to the good start and get win No. 1 under their belts. The Wild haven’t had success in Game Ones, however; they’re now 2-10 with six overtime losses. Again, maybe it just wasn’t in the cards.
The Wild and Blues face off again Friday night in St. Paul. If the Wild find a way to replicate what they did Wednesday, with a few more pucks in the net, they have a good chance of getting back on track in the series.