St. Louis Blues Jaden Schwartz steals the puck. Schwartz had the eventual game-winning goal to beat the Wild on Friday night. File photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- St. Louis Blues coach Mike Yeo still owns a house in Minnesota from his days when he coached the Wild. But he may not be coming back to visit anytime soon.
Jaden Schwartz scored late in the third period as the Blues took a commanding lead in their opening-round playoff series, beating the Wild 2-1 on Friday night, giving St. Louis a chance to sweep on home ice.
With 2:27 left in a tight game, Schwartz zipped a rising shot through traffic into the upper right corner of the net.
"It's a good start for us, but the job's not over yet," Schwartz said. "We know the last two are going to be the hardest. ... They're going to throw everything at us and we're excited to go home for sure. We did a good job so far, but we know it's going to get a lot tougher."
Joel Edmundson scored in the second period and Jake Allen made 23 saves for the Blues, who take a 2-0 lead in the series back to St. Louis.
"We're real happy we got both wins in here, but I know that's not a team that's gonna quit," said Yeo, who coached the Wild for parts of five seasons before he was fired in February of last season. "They're not gonna go away.
"But if we can get a little bit in their head, and more importantly for us start to find the blueprint of what we need to do to be successful and keep getting better as a group, then we're happy."
For the second game in a row, the Wild got a goal from Zach Parise and no other offense. They were again frustrated by a determined Blues defensive corps, which has kept Minnesota's forwards to the outside and limited chances in front of Allen.
"It's disappointing. We played well both games. Both games are a one-shot difference," said Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk, who took the loss with 20 saves. "We just can't seem to get a break at the other end, but we know that we are more than capable of creating goals and, you know, we've created offense and we've just got to keep doing that. I think the danger is to start changing what you're doing."
Each team had a power play in the scoreless first period. Minnesota emerged with a 9-5 lead in shots, but the Blues again limited the Wild's access to the front of their net.
"Well, we might change a couple things. But quite frankly, we miss in one end, they score in the other, it's execution," Minnesota coach Bruce Boudreau said of his team's approach for the next game. "As tough as it is to get through the slot, I would still say we had more chances to score than them tonight. We're just not putting them in when we're getting the opportunity, and obviously they're scoring at the right time."
The Blues took the lead early in the second via Edmundson's second goal of the series.
With a delayed penalty coming up on the Wild, Patrik Berglund got the puck and fed Edmundson, who was parked on the blue line. Dubnyk appeared to have a clear look at Edmundson's fluttering shot, but the puck eluded the goalie's glove to give St. Louis a 1-0 lead. It was just the third playoff goal in 18 games for Edmundson.
"I think he was just saving it all for the playoffs. He didn't want to max out too early," joked Blues defenseman Alex Pietranglo of Edmundson, who had just three goals in the regular season. "He's got a hell of a shot. We've told him that all year, shoot the puck. When you get guys in front of the net, it's hard to save the puck when you can't see it."
With frustration mounting, Minnesota got a break in the form of back-to-back penalties on St. Louis, which gave the Wild 85 seconds of a five-on-three power play.
Eric Staal's pass in front of the net was blocked by a defender, but when Blues center Kyle Brodziak tried to clear the loose puck, it landed on Parise's stick. He popped a high shot into the upper webbing of the net for his second goal of the series.
The most concerning moment for Minnesota came in the final seconds of the period when left winger Erik Haula was cross-checked by Blues left winger Scottie Upshall and went headfirst into the side boards.
Haula struggled to get off the ice and went right to the dressing room as boos rained down on Upshall and the officials. There was no penalty called and Haula returned to play in the third period.
Game 3 of the series is Sunday afternoon in St. Louis.
NOTES: Four Minnesotans -- Hannah Brandt, Kelly Pannek, Lee Stecklein and Maddy Rooney -- who were members of the gold medal-winning American team at last week's Women's World Ice Hockey Championships in Michigan were introduced to a standing ovation before the game. ... Blues RW Zach Sanford made his career playoff debut, skating on the team's third line. The rookie played in 39 regular-season games, scoring four goals. Sanford was in the lineup after the Blues scratched C Jori Lehtera. ... It was the seventh career playoff goal for Jaden Schwartz in his 40th career playoff game.