The Minnesota Wild headed on the road to take on the St. Louis Blues for Game 3 of their playoff series. They were coming off a huge win in Game 2 and that performance carried over even with no home crowd to give them energy. They started things off early with a goal just 39 seconds in and followed it up under two minutes later with another goal to take a 2-0 lead, and they carried that into the second period.
The second was quiet to begin with, but the Wild added another goal almost eight minutes in to stretch their lead to 3-0. They kept the Blues at bay all second period and went into the third with a strong lead. The Wild kept with the theme of the night and scored early in the third to extend their lead once again. The Blues didn’t sit on their heels for long; they got their first a few minutes later to make it 4-1.
Taking a page out of the Wild’s book, the Blues pulled their goaltender Ville Husso with over seven minutes left in regulation and the Wild found that empty net to make it 5-1. The Wild clamped down defensively and that’s how the game ended, with the Wild claiming the victory and a 2-1 series lead.
Wild’s Theme: Early Goals
The Wild didn’t give the Blues any time to get comfortable as they scored early in all three periods. The first goal was obviously the most important. Just 39 seconds in, they shocked the Blues and possibly themselves as they went up 1-0 on the road against a very strong team. The second period had been very good to the Blues during the regular season but the Wild made sure they had no traction when they scored before the halfway point of the period to give themselves a nice three-goal cushion.
In the third period, they attempted to thwart any kind of comeback when they scored just 22 seconds into the period and made it 4-0. Of course, scoring at any moment is good, but the time and way the Wild did was effective in shutting the Blues down and they weren’t allowed to get any momentum from their crowd.
Wild’s Scorers Step Up
The Wild’s top scorers found ways to step up big throughout the regular season and they didn’t go quiet in the postseason. Kirill Kaprizov continued his magic as he added an assist and a goal to his postseason points total. He’s found interesting ways to score goals and his goal in Game 3 was no different. His initial shot was stopped but as he chased the puck down behind the net, he threw it back towards the goaltender and it bounced off of Husso’s skate and into the net. A very unfortunate bounce for Husso but a very beneficial one for Kaprizov.
Next up was Kaprizov’s linemate, Mats Zuccarello. He nearly missed the entire final week of the regular season due to a lower-body injury sustained against the Seattle Kraken. He went on to miss the next three games but came back against the Colorado Avalanche in the final game before the playoffs. He got things going for the postseason in Game 2 when he recorded two assists. In Game 3, he tallied the third goal of the game and made it a very difficult mountain to climb for their opponent.
The final goal that wasn’t an empty netter went to the man of the hour, Joel Eriksson Ek. He nearly had a hat trick in Game 2 and he scored the Wild’s fourth goal in Game 3. He’s started out the postseason on fire and, thankfully for the Wild, he looks like he found his scoring stride.
Wild’s Flower Power
It wouldn’t be a postseason game without talking about Marc-André Fleury and his outstanding performance. It was his third straight start and his third strong performance. The first one wasn’t great but he wasn’t the reason for that loss. He stood on his head in Game 3 and helped his team secure their second consecutive win and his 92nd win in the postseason.
Related: Wild’s 3 Keys to Success Over the Blues in Game 3
The Wild knew what they were doing when they went after Fleury at the trade deadline, and they got exactly what they were hoping for. He stopped 29 out of the 30 shots he faced and put up a .967 save percentage. He elevates his play with every game he’s in and hopefully he can continue to do so as they still have a ways to go.
Wild’s Sore Spot
Despite the strong win, the Wild continue to have a penalty problem that could’ve caused them a lot of trouble had they not found their scoring success. They have to tread lightly when it comes to penalties, especially against a team that has already scored four power-play goals against them and has a power-play percentage of 28.6. They took three penalties, which is the lowest number so far, but still not good enough. They have to do better in Game 4.
Wild vs. Blues Game 4
The Wild have given themselves a small upper hand by going ahead in the series, but they can’t let off the gas. They’ll have to keep that pressure they had in both Games 2 and 3 and use that to their advantage. It’ll be tough to come out with two straight wins on the road but if they keep up what they’re doing, they have a very strong chance to head back home to Minnesota up three games to one.