Joel Edmundson slowly skated away from the slot after his overtime winner for St. Louis, as if the 23-year-old defenceman had done this several times before.
Keeping calm and staying steady were the keys to victory for Jake Allen and the Blues in weathering all that pressure from the Minnesota Wild.
Edmundson scored for St. Louis at 17:48 of the extra period , Allen made a career-high 51 saves and the Blues stole Game 1 of their first-round playoff series from the Wild with a 2-1 victory Wednesday night.
“Trying to play it cool, like I do it every day,” said Edmundson, who has six goals in 153 NHL games, including the playoffs.
Blues star Vladimir Tarasenko was quiet most of the night until he spun past Mikko Koivu, drove into a crowd and lost control. The puck threaded through the Wild defence like a well-timed pass to Edmundson, who knocked in the second post-season goal of his career.
“The Tarasenko guy, you can control him for the whole game, and then he gets the one chance,” Wild coach Bruce Boudreau lamented.
Zach Parise tied the game with 22.7 seconds left in regulation for the Wild, who’d never had a goalie make that many saves against them in their 16-year history.
“We can’t leave him like this to make unreal saves five to seven times a game,” Tarasenko said. “We need to play better defence and play on the same page.”
The Wild outshot the Blues 52-26 and held a 47-33 advantage on faceoffs.
“That’s playoff hockey. Sometimes it’s a strange game,” said Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk, who made 24 saves.
Allen, the catalyst for the midseason turnaround by the Blues after Mike Yeo took over as coach, sure didn’t lose his touch. Diving, reaching and sliding for pucks from start to finish, the 26-year-old was oh, so close to his first career post-season shutout. Parise spoiled it with his one-timer off a tic-tac-toe feed from Koivu and Mikael Granlund with Dubnyk pulled for the final minute.
“I think we know that we have to be better,” Yeo said. “That’s the thing: We can’t just rely on Jake to have a performance like that.”
Parise, who grinded through illnesses and an early injury to finish with 19 goals in 69 games for his lowest non-lockout total since he was a rookie with New Jersey 11 years ago, more than made up for a missed opportunity with about 10 minutes remaining.
Matt Dumba was stopped by Allen’s pad, then by the near post. Nino Niederreiter tried to reach through traffic and poke in the loose puck, but Parise tried to do the same and inadvertently knocked it backward just before it reached the goal line.
That sequence was a little lucky, but Allen showed plenty of skill. He artfully cast aside consecutive attempts by Jason Zucker and Charlie Coyle with less than four minutes left before the second intermission, with the Wild forced by the Blues defence to try most of their shots from the outside.
“We extended the game, and then you never know what can happen in overtime, but you’ve got to score more than one,” Parise said.
The Blues took the lead after an interception by Alexander Steen of Jonas Brodin’s clearing attempt preceding a pass to Vladimir Sobotka in the slot. The 29-year-old native Czech, who scored in his only regular-season game after rejoining the Blues last week from a three-year run in the Kontinental Hockey League in Russia, wound up a wrist shot that deflected off Christian Folin and past Dubnyk after Folin tripped.
The Wild and the Blues, two of the six teams in the league who’ve made the playoffs five straight times, were locked in the same bracket by Saturday night. That left four days for preparation, rest and rumination including a long, anxious afternoon leading up to the puck drop at 8:45 p.m. local time.
Booed during the pregame lineup announcements by the overflow sellout crowd of 19,168, Yeo settled in for just his 33rd game as boss of the Blues following the firing of Ken Hitchcock that triggered the early promotion and a 22-8-2 finish. Two years ago this month, Yeo stood only a few feet to his left behind the home team bench while the Wild worked on a six-game ouster of the Central Division champion Blues in the opening round.
The Wild entered the post-season for the first time with Boudreau, the regular-season wizard who has only cleared the second round once in his remarkable career. This was his ninth time in the playoffs in nine full seasons.
NOTES: The Blues scratched centre Paul Stastny (lower body), defenceman Robert Bortuzzo (upper body) and right wing Nail Yakupov (undisclosed), but they all could return at some point in the series. Stastny missed the last 10 games of the regular season, and Bortuzzo and Yakupov each sat out the final five games. ... This was the 17th overtime for the Wild in 64 post-season games. They fell to 2-10 in Game 1s. They’ve won four playoff series.Report Typo/Error