Wild end once-promising season with Game 6 loss to St. Louis Blues
Like so many teams before them, the Wild once again bowed out in the first round
ST. LOUIS — This time was supposed to be different.
After the best regular season in franchise history, the Wild entered the playoffs a week and a half ago with thoughts of a deep run. Some even considered them a darkhorse to win the Stanley Cup.
Equipped with a superstar in Kirill Kaprizov, a gamebreaker in Kevin Fiala, depth scoring up and down the lineup, a talented blue line, and a dynamic duo of Marc-Andre Fleury and Cam Talbot between the pipes, the sky was the limit for this version of the Wild.
Yet like so many teams before them, the Wild once again bowed out in the first round, this time falling 4-2 in a series against the rival St. Louis Blues. To make matters worse, the Wild actually led 2-1 in the series at the beginning of this week, and had a chance to take complete control with the Blues battling injuries on the backend.
Instead, the Wild lost back-to-back-to-back games, ending their season with a 5-1 loss to the Blues in Game 6 on Thursday night at Enterprise Center in St. Louis.
For a group that’s prided itself on its resiliency all season long, the Wild crumbled in the face of adversity when it mattered most. After saying all the right things in the days leading up to the must-win game, the Wild did all the wrong things during a particular 20-minute stretch that proved to be their demise.
Now the Wild will return to the Twin Cities with absolutely nothing to show for a once-promising season.
On the brink of elimination, the Wild swapped out goaltenders, starting Cam Talbot in lieu of Marc-Andre Fleury. That provided a major boost early on.
After a solid start in the opening 10 minutes, the Wild appeared to be in control of the game. Until a rush from Blues defenseman Nick Leddy, who grew up about 30 minutes away from the Xcel Energy Center, and was a Wild draft pick once upon a time.
With the puck on his stick late in the first period, Leddy slowly but surely maneuvered his way into the offensive zone, and every Wild player on the ice watched him do it. A couple of seconds later, Leddy put the Blues up 1-0 with a seemingly harmless shot that somehow beat Talbot clean.
That spoiled another otherwise good effort from the Wild in the first period, though they did go 0 for 2 on the power play in the frame.
With a chance to tie the game in the second period, the Wild got another chance on the power play. They didn’t even get a shot off.
Fittingly, the Blues got a power play later in the second period, and they promptly cashed in to make it 2-0. The goal came courtesy of Blues captain Ryan O’Reilly, who proved to be a menace throughout the series, tormenting the Wild on both ends of the ice.
That might as well have been the ballgame. From that point forward, the Wild looked like a shell of themselves. Meanwhile, the Blues continued to keep their foot on the gas.
A few minutes after O’Reilly scored, Blues center Tyler Bozak stretched the lead to 3-0, using his big body to clean up the trash in front of Talbot. Not to be outdone, Blues superstar winger Vladimir Tarasenko made it 4-0 late in the second period.
That put the came out of reach, and while Matt Dumba found the back of the net in the third period to cut the deficit to 4-1, that was as close as the Wild got.
As the final minutes ticked away, the Wild pulled Talbot in search of an impossible comeback. That simply allowed Blues defenseman Colton Parayko to pile on with an empty-netter to finalize the score at 5-1.
In the end, this season proved to be no different than the rest.
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