After making an impressive comeback late in the third period to tie the game, Minnesota found itself locked in another overtime with the St. Louis Blues on Saturday afternoon. However, much to the chagrin of Wild fans, St. Louis was the victor of the game and the series as Magnus Paajarvi scored at the 9:42 mark, beating goaltender Devan Dubnyk.
What sent Minnesota into the offseason was a turnover of the puck followed by myriad defensive errors. Let’s take a closer look at what exactly went wrong.
Dubnyk goes behind the net to play the puck following a dump in. Jori Lehtera flies right past Ryan Suter, and is able to crash into the end wall and gets a piece of the puck that Dubnyk tried to play up the boards. The puck slowly wraps around the boards and doesn’t even get close to the blue line as a result of the hustle and deflection from Lehtera.
Vladimir Sobotka, who just returned from the KHL a month ago, gets over to the puck on the half wall and as he turns to look back to check his surroundings he sees he has three Wild defenders who can easily get to him. Ryan Suter is down low. Martin Hanzal is directly behind Sobotka, chasing him. Zach Parise is up high. Not exactly great space for Sobotka. Also, notice Paajarvi is in the slot here.
Hanzal continues to move in on Sobotka, as he now appears to have him pinned to the wall. Sobotka begins to slide down to his left a bit, as he tries to get loose of the Wild center.
A quick spin from Sobotka gets him free of Hanzal and into space. Paajarvi had come over to the faceoff dot to help, but he starts to slide back towards the slot as Sobotka assesses his options. Zach Parise is covering a potential pass to the point, but here he is almost entirely flat-footed which is a huge advantage for Sobotka. Jared Spurgeon is taking Paajarvi here, and Coyle is covering the slot area.
With Hanzal in pursuit, Sobotka sees a flat-footed Parise and turns towards the net. All Parise can do is try stick check him, and it had no effect. So now with two Wild defenders behind him, Sobotka continues to move towards the goal, drawing Spurgeon away from Paajarvi, who slides back over towards the slot area. With Suter covering Lehtera down low, Paajarvi has time and space in the slot is Sobotka can get a pass through to him by Spurgeon. Coyle begins to move down to try and cover Paajarvi here.
Sure enough, Sobotka gets a pass past Spurgeon over to Paajarvi. Coyle and Parise do not get back down quick enough and Paajarvi is able to get a shot away. Dubnyk has yet to slide over fully, and Paajarvi is able to get it over Dubnyk’s right shoulder for the winner.
This was one heck of a play on the forecheck by the Blues, as they hustled to get a turnover off the dump in and got Minnesota to error defensively, allowing them to win the game and the series. A disappointing end for the Wild, after battling back to tie the game, to say the least.