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Saturday's NHL playoffs: Blues oust Wild in five

By Dave Campbell
Associated Press
The St. Louis Blues celebrate a goal while two Wild players skate past during the first period in Game 5 on Saturday.

St. Paul, Minn. — Minnesota had the upper hand on St. Louis for most of this series, controlling the play for periods at a time.

With goalie Jake Allen as their guide and coach Mike Yeo on their side, though, the Blues sure had the right formula for beating the Wild in the playoffs.

Magnus Paajarvi scored at the 9:42 mark in overtime, giving the Blues a 4-3 victory on Saturday in Game 5 of their playoff series to eliminate the Wild in the first round following the best season in franchise history.

“They know us. We know them,” said Allen, who stopped 174 of the 182 shots he faced. “They got the best of us two years ago, and we came out on top this year. I’m sure we’re going to have many future series.”

The Blues advanced to play Nashville in the second round, with Game 1 against the Predators at home in St. Louis.

“I think we should be proud, but not satisfied,” Paajarvi said, adding: “We’ve got to play a better game.”

Allen made 34 saves for the Blues, who led 2-0 and 3-1 before a furious rally by the Wild to try to keep their season alive forced the extra frame. Mikko Koivu and Jason Zucker scored to bring the Wild back from their second two-goal hole, a deficit that held past the midpoint of the third period until the two scores 4:21 apart that Allen said the Wild deserved for how hard they came at him.

Vladimir Tarasenko scored for the first time in the series, Alexander Steen followed him 3:15 later for a 2-0 lead midway through the first period and Paul Stastny got a goal in his first appearance of the playoffs, but the Blues were still fortunate to make it to overtime with all the difficult saves Allen had to make.

Despite a clear edge in shots on goal and faceoff draws and a dominant penalty kill unit throughout the series, the Wild were left wondering what more they had to do to get more pucks past Allen.

“They weren’t the better team,” coach Bruce Boudreau said, “but they won four games.”

Paajarvi’s first career playoff goal was set up by Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk, who stopped 23 shots. He turned the puck over to Vladimir Sobotka, whose pass found the trailing Paajarvi for the winner.

That gave Yeo the satisfaction of beating the team that fired him a little over a year ago, his insider knowledge of the Wild’s preferences and tendencies undoubtedly a strategical benefit for the Blues.

“I don’t think that what I’m feeling right now would be any different if it was any other team,” said Yeo, who was congratulated in the locker room afterward by Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher.

Ryan Suter scored the first of two power play goals by the Wild, who posted a 26-12 advantage in shots on goal over the second and third periods after weathering an early barrage by the Blues. They lacked that finishing touch to reward their 5-on-5 effort, though, and Dubnyk couldn’t quite match Allen’s brilliance.

The Wild also lost first line center Eric Staal to a scary injury in the second period when he crashed head first into the boards and, though alert and stable, was sent to a nearby hospital for further observation. Erik Haula filled in admirably, but in defeat.

“What is this, five years in a row? I’m sick of it,” Haula said. “We’re all sick of it.”

The Wild had a goal waved off earlier in the third period for goaltender interference on Nino Niederreiter. Coach Bruce Boudreau challenged, arguing that Jori Lehtera pushed Niederreiter into Allen, but the video review upheld the call to trigger an angry, dismissive wave of the left hand by Boudreau.

Tarasenko, who had six goals in six games against the Wild in the playoffs in 2015, used some fancy footwork to give the Blues the early lead. He charged in from the corner and, after a collision of sticks with Wild defenseman Jonas Brodin, kept the puck alive by pin-balling it off the inside of both skates before going to the opposite side to beat Dubnyk .

“It’s impossible to pick one thing,” Koivu said, “why we came up short like that.”

More Western Conference

Edmonton 3, (at) San Jose 1: Leon Draisaitl and Anton Slepyshev scored on breakaways in the opening minutes of the second period and the Oilers advanced to the second round with their victory in Game 6 over Sharks.

Draisaitl and Slepyshev each buried their chances for their first career playoff goals and the Oilers held off the Sharks after that to get the win in their first playoff series since getting to the Stanley Cup Final in 2006. Connor McDavid iced the game with an empty-net goal with less than a second to play for his first even-strength point of the series.

Patrick Marleau got the Sharks on the board with 7:48 left in the third period, but Cam Talbot didn’t allow anything else on 28 shots to get the win.

Edmonton will take a young roster led by NHL scoring leader McDavid and eight other skaters under the age of 25 into the second round against Anaheim.

Eastern Conference

(At) N.Y. Rangers 3, Montreal 1: Mats Zuccarello scored twice in the second period of Game 6 and the Rangers advanced to the second round.

Derek Stepan also scored and Henrik Lundqvist stopped 27 shots to help New York get past the first round for the fifth time in six years. The Rangers won three straight after falling behind 2-1 to beat Montreal for the ninth time in 16 postseason series.

The Rangers will face the winner of the Ottawa-Boston series, which the Senators lead 3-2.

Alexei Emelin scored for Montreal and Carey Price finished with 20 saves. The Canadiens, winners of the Atlantic Division after missing the playoffs last year, were bounced from the postseason by the Rangers for the second time in four years. In 2014, it was in the conference finals.