The Minnesota Wild’s 5-2 loss against the St. Louis Blues in Game 4 was not the byproduct of getting outplayed but rather sloppy defensive turnovers and a few unlucky bounces. It shouldn’t be a surprise that the Wild dominated at 5-on-5 despite losing the game. It proves once again that controlling play at even strength isn’t always enough to win a game when special teams and other factors are included.
The Wild were slow at the start of the game and had a prevalent lack of energy. The Blues had a 14-3 advantage in the shot department with nearly six minutes left in the first period. That’s disappointing, considering Minnesota had an opportunity to take a commanding 3-1 series lead. Even worse? St. Louis was playing shorthanded with Torey Krug, Nick Leddy, and Robert Bortuzzo all out because of injury. And Marco Scandella left the game early and didn’t return.
Jordan Kyrou, who scored two goals and a four-point night against the Wild in the Winter Classic, opened up the scoring by scoring on his own rebound.
After allowing the Blues to dump the puck into the zone nonchalantly, Kyrou received a pass from behind the net and had all the time in the world to release a shot from the circle. The shot hit Marc-Andre Fleury up high before deflecting off Mats Zuccarello and landing on Kyrou’s stick for the easy goal. That defensive miscue and unlucky bounce became a trend during the game. While Fleury made some critical stops, his rebound control wasn’t ideal. He ultimately didn’t have his best game, allowing 0.67 goals above expected with four goals on 33 shots.
However, Fleury wasn’t solely to blame for the disappointing loss considering Minnesota’s myriad other problems. Kevin Fiala, who has yet to record a point in this series, took two penalties during the game. Ryan O’Reilly would score on one of those power-play opportunities, and Fleury bailed him out on the other one with close to half a dozen saves.
One of the only bright spots from the game was Kirill Kaprizov, who has proven that he can lead the Wild’s offense in the postseason. Jared Spurgeon made a slick pass to the reigning Calder Trophy winner, who made no mistake and beat Jordan Binnington with four players surrounding him.
Kaprizov now has five goals and six points through the first four games of the series.
The second unlucky play of the game for the Wild resulted in a goal and ultimately ended up being too costly even after their late-game push. The GREEF line was one of the best defensive lines in the league this season, and they were dominant through the first three games. However, Game 4 was a rare off night for Minnesota’s identity line. They not only allowed their first goal against in the postseason but were Minnesota’s worst line in Game 4 with a dreadful five percent expected goals rate at 5-on-5.
Like the GREEF line, the Jonas Brodin–Matt Dumba pairing has been the Wild’s best defensive pairing in the first three games of the series but struggled in Game 4. Dumba’s ill-advised turnover behind the net led to a prime scoring chance for Kyrou, who later dangled Dumba and then Fleury for his second of the night and a multi-goal lead for the Blues.
Brodin had a rare poor game, too. He allowed Colton Parayko to be the first in on the forecheck for the Blues’ first goal of the game and was also on the ice for St. Louis’ last goal on the power play. It was not a good night for the second pair, and Minnesota will need them to make a significant impact in Game 5.
Give the Wild credit, though. As messy and careless as they were at times, they were the better even strength team and made a major push in the second half of the game. Matt Boldy scored his first career playoff goal in the blue paint to get the Wild within a single goal. Dubbed the comeback kids for late-game heroics all season, it seemed like the Wild may have had another one in the tank.
Nobody will ever know because of a careless play in the offensive zone with the net empty. Jordan Greenway lost the puck behind the net, which led to the Blues spoiling the Wild’s extra attacker opportunity. It wasn’t only Greenway’s fault, though. Nobody was on the left side to retrieve the puck.
The Wild were the better team at even strength in Game 4, but costly mistakes and unlucky bounces spoiled Minnesota’s late-game push.