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Wild can’t take control in Game 4, Blues even series at 2-2

The result guaranteed that the Wild will have to come back to St. Louis next week.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Minnesota Wild at St. Louis Blues
Minnesota Wild goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury reacts after giving up a goal to St. Louis Blues center Ryan O'Reilly during the third period Sunday, May 8, 2022, in Game 4 of their first-round series in 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs in St. Louis.
Jeff Le / USA Today Sports

ST. LOUIS — Admit it. You thought the Minnesota Wild were going to tie the game in the final minutes on Sunday afternoon at Enterprise Center.

On nine separate occasions this season, the Wild erased a multi goal deficit, and parlayed into a comeback win. That impressive total tied them with the Florida Panthers for the most in the league.

Thus, with the Wild giving the St. Louis Blues everything they could handle down the stretch in Game 4 of their playoff series, it felt like only a matter of time before they leveled the score.

“We all felt that we could because we did it so many times,” said Freddy Gaudreau, who had a scoring chance late. “It was close. Unfortunately it didn’t go in.”

In the end, the Wild ran out of gas, suffering a 5-2 loss to the Blues. The series is tied at 2-2 with Game 5 on Tuesday night in St. Paul and Game 6 on Thursday night in St. Louis.

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NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Minnesota Wild at St. Louis Blues
Minnesota Wild left wing Kirill Kaprizov takes a shot against the St. Louis Blues during the second period Sunday, May 8, 2022, of Game 4 in St. Louis.
Jeff Le / USA Today Sports

The most frustrating part for the Wild, aside from the loss itself, was that they didn’t take advantage of the Blues battling injuries on the backend. With the likes of Torey Krug, Nick Leddy, and Robert Bortuzzo all out of the lineup, the Blues were forced to play the likes of Calle Rosen, Steven Santini, and Scott Perunovich on the blue line.

“Maybe a missed opportunity,” Matt Dumba admitted after the Wild failed to make the Blues pay for their experience. “We’ve just got to look at Game 5 right now.”

As for Game 4, in an act of desperation, the Blues started Jordan Binnington between the pipes, his recent postseason struggles be damned. While he entered the game with an 0-9 postseason record since hoisting the Stanley Cup on June 12, 2019, not to mention a 4.20 goals against average and a .875 save percentage in that span, the Blues felt Binnington could provide them with a shot of life.

That he did. After ceding the crease to Ville Husso to open the playoff series, Binnington gave the Blues exactly what they needed, finishing with 28 saves in the game.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Minnesota Wild at St. Louis Blues
St. Louis Blues left wing Brandon Saad takes a shot Sunday, May 8, 2022, against the Minnesota Wild in Game 4 of their first-round Stanley Cup Playoffs series.
Jeff Le / USA Today Sports

It was a fast start to the first period for the home team before Blues winger Jordan Kyrou broke the ice with a goal to make it 1-0 in favor of the Blues.

That fully activated the home crowd in St. Louis, and a few minutes later, Kevin Fiala took a double minor that put the Wild on the penalty kill. If the Blues scored at any point on that extended power play, there’s no doubt Enterprise Center would’ve erupted.

Instead, the Wild stepped up big time on the penalty kill with Marc-Andre Fleury making a handful of big saves, and Jonas Brodin and Matt Dumba both contributing with a big defensive play.

Not long after the Wild finished off the penalty kill, Kirill Kaprizov carved out space in front, accepted a pass from Jared Spurgeon, and wired a shot into the back of the net to help the Wild tie the game at 1-1.

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That said, the Blues continued to pressure the Wild, and midway through the second period, they finally broke through with a pair of goals in 54 seconds.

The flurry on Fleury started with David Perron accepting a pass from Ryan O’Reilly, then backhanding a shot on net. While the puck initially stayed out, it eventually trickled past the goal line when Marcus Foligno’s clearing attempt took a bad bounce off of Fleury’s back.

That goal made it 2-1 in favor of the Blues and they weren’t done. On the ensuing shift, O’Reilly forced a turnover, and Kyrou promptly got in his bag with a highlight-reel goal to stretch the lead to 3-1.

With the Wild chasing the game at that point, Matt Boldy got them back into it with a goal to cut the deficit to 3-2. It was eerily similar to Perron’s goal earlier in the game, as the puck sat on the goal line for a few seconds before Boldy knocked it in.

“As a group we feel like we’re never out of a game,” Dumba said. “We just said, ‘Let’s come in waves. Just trust each other and stick with the process.’ We tried.”

It just wasn’t enough. With a chance to tie the game midway through the third period, and perhaps take control of the series in the process, the Wild couldn’t capitalize with the man advantage. They finished 0 for 4 on the power play in the game.

“That last one obviously hurts us,” coach Dean Evason said. “We score on that last one and it’s a tie game. We’ve got to find a way to score the power play, for sure.”

In the waning minutes of the game, Perron scored an empty-netter to make it 4-2, then O’Reilly finalized the score at 5-2 with a goal on the power play.

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The good news for the Wild? They get to play Game 5 at home with a chance to retake control of the series.

“It’s not going to be easy,” Gaudreau said. “It’s the playoffs and the Blues are a good team. It’s just about bringing our mind back to the next game and staying focused for 60 minutes. That’s cliche. That’s what it is.”

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