Wild blues to series

ST. PAUL, Minnesota — The scoreless streak for the Minnesota Wild was pressing 70 minutes when they finally paused with a broken St. Louis stick.

Joel Eriksson Ek scored the first goal of the game seconds later and the entire Wild Bank jumped with excitement – with a bit of relief.

Kirill Kaprizov had a hat-trick and Eriksson Ek scored twice for the Wild, who bounced back with a 6-2 win over the St. Louis Blues to level their first-round playoff streak at one game apiece on Wednesday night.

“It sure helps build confidence knowing you can take the lead and follow along,” said Eriksson Ek.

Frederic Gaudreau and Kaprizov scored on the power play for the Wild, who went 6-0 in their 4-0 loss in Game 1 and won 9-1 against the Blues after losing three times in the regular season. The Wild have beaten their regular Central Division rivals for just the third time in 16 games since the Blues won the 2019 Stanley Cup.

The Blues didn’t score against Minnesota goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury until Jordan Kyrou scored a power play goal midway through the second period. They lost defender Robert Bortuzzo to injury after he blocked a half-faced shot in the first game.

Kirill Kaprizov scores his third goal against Ville Husso in the Wilds' 6-2 Game 2 win over the Blues.
Kirill Kaprizov scores his third goal against Ville Husso in the Wilds’ 6-2 Game 2 win over the Blues.

“Obviously, once you know it hit him in the head, it’s really scary,” said St. Louis defenseman Colton Parayko. “As a teammate and friend, it’s hard to see. I hope he’s feeling better.”

Vladimir Tarasenko had a goal and an assist for the Blues hosting Game 3 in St. Louis on Friday night.

“You come here, get a split and go home. You’re happy with that,” said coach Craig Berube. “It’s going to be a long series and you have to fight and keep at it.”

Eriksson Ek, the 2015 first-round draft pick from Sweden who was a Selke Award finalist for the NHL’s best defensive forward last summer, has ramped up his offense tremendously in the first season of the eight-year, $42 million contract he’s signed last summer.

Eriksson Ek broke Blues goalie Ville Husso’s shutout streak at 69-33 when he scored Minnesota’s first shot on goal. After Bortuzzo’s racquet broke trying to clear, Jordan Greenway grabbed the puck and – putting it right past defenseless Bortuzzo – Eriksson fed Ek on his racquet’s sweet spot for the one-timer.

“It was obviously very important for us to get that momentum to feel good about the game,” Kaprizov said through a translator. “I think the fans were there right away.”

Kaprizov, the precocious Russian star who set franchise records with 47 goals and 108 points this season, gave the Savages a 5-2 lead by deftly tapping Mats Zuccarello’s pass on the rush. He added an empty net with 7:08 left after Berube Husso pulled in a last ditch effort.

Between Kaprizov’s goals, Eriksson Ek thought he had a hat-trick himself. So did the dozens who threw their caps on the ice, but a Blues challenge – Marcus Foligno was ruled offside – erased that goal.

“I think Moose should buy some new hats for all these people,” said Eriksson Ek.

The Wild maintained the same powerplay lineup after their Game 1 battle, and Gaudreau delivered at the first opportunity. After Justin Faulk was called for high-sticking, Husso forwarded a juicy rebound from Jonas Brodin’s slapshot, which Gaudreau knocked out.

Towards the end of the first period, with Faulk in the box again for a swipe, Bortuzzo either stumbled forward or went deep to the block on purpose – and had a slapshot from Eriksson Ek that pinged painfully out of his face. Bortuzzo left the ice immediately and did not return.

A little later in the power play, a deflection from Eriksson Ek led to a rebound, which Kaprizov tapped on the post. When Kevin Fiala slammed into the net hard, Husso couldn’t stop the puck from sliding over the goal line.

Then, just 51 seconds into the second period, Eriksson Ek gave the Wilden a 4-0 lead. He stole a sloppy pass from Tarasenko bound for Calle Rosen and tagged Husso with a forehand-to-backhand dangle to pocket the puck for a glove-side goal.

The Wild were upset with their special teams’ struggles in Game 1. This time, they went 2-for-3 on the power play, killing four of five penalties while better controlling the rebounds that Fleury threw out.

Fleury made 32 saves for his 91st postseason win, his first with the Wild. The all-night crowd at the Xcel Energy Center took a break from taunting Husso by serenading Fleury’s last name late in the game.

“The game was fun to play and hopefully we have many more to come,” said Fleury, which was acquired just before the Chicago close on March 21.

Bortuzzo’s exit left the Blues horribly thin on the blue line. Nick Leddy was scratched with an upper body injury he sustained but played through in Game 1. Marco Scandella did not play in the series due to a lower body injury. Wild blues to series


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