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Kirill Kaprizov had a goal and an assist, Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 29 shots, and the Minnesota Wild beat the St. Louis Blues 5-1 on Friday night to take a 2-1 lead in their Western Conference playoff series.
Joel Eriksson Ek had a goal and an assist, and Jordan Greenway, Mats Zuccarello and Jonas Brodin also scored as the Wild improved to 8-8 all-time in Game 3s.
Fleury, playing in a 16th consecutive Stanley Cup playoffs, earned his 92nd career playoff win.
“St. Louis had good pressure to start,” Fleury said. “I thought our team defended well. We stuck together, stayed in the middle and didn’t give them too much.”
Ryan O’Reilly scored a power play goal and Ville Husso made 28 saves for the Blues.
St. Louis lost Torey Krug to a lower body injury early in the first period. Krug, who will be re-evaluated on Saturday, is the third Blues defensemen to get hurt in the series.
Minnesota Wild’s Ryan Hartman (38), Jonas Brodin (25) and teammates celebrate a goal against the St. Louis Blues during the first period in Game 3 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series Friday, May 6, 2022, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Michael Thomas)
“It’s tough, it’s tough on the ‘D’, it’s tough on the team,” Blues coach Craig Berube said. “We lose our quarterback power-play guy and it’s what it is.”
Game 4 of the best-of-seven series is Sunday afternoon in St. Louis before shifting back to St. Paul, Minnesota, for Game 5.
The Wild wasted no time quieting the crowd by taking advantage of the Blues’ aggressiveness for two early goals.
St. Louis defenseman Colton Parayko was caught chipping in the offensive zone creating a 2-on-1 break resulting in Greenway’s goal 39 seconds in.
“I just thought we simplified it,” Wild coach Dean Evason said. “I mean, we weren’t trying to go east-west. We were just getting pucks into the zone and skating and that’s the game right and you know, everybody talks about our team being a physical team, but we can skate.”
Less than two minutes later, Ryan Hartman sprung Kaprizov on a breakaway. Husso made the initial save, steering the rebound to the corner, but Kaprizov banked the rebound off Husso’s skate from behind the net to give the Wild a 2-0 lead.
“He’s one of those players that finds a way to score from everywhere and it’s nothing new for us,” Zuccarello said. “It’s good to see. You work hard and you get the bonuses and today we got bounces.”
Zuccarello’s 16th career playoff goal gave the Wild a 3-0 lead in the second period and Eriksson Ek scored his third goal of the series 22 seconds into the third period. Marcus Foligno picked up his second assist of the game on Eriksson Ek’s tally.
“Smart plays, getting pucks out, having the third guy high, coming back hard, back-checking, it’s easier to get those chances,” Zuccarello said. “I think the whole team today tracking back, the back-checking, was phenomenal.”
The Blues got some momentum going after O’Reilly’s goal at 2:17 of the third, but Fleury made several tough saves to keep the rally from gaining more traction.
“I think it was definitely deflating for us, but we’re a veteran team and we should’ve responded better,” O’Reilly said of the two early goals. “Bounces are going to happen. We came out with great energy, feeding off the building, and I thought we did some great things well, but maybe got too excited offensively. We’ve got to be responsible and then build our game from there.”
Brodin’s goal with 7:29 left prompted a significant portion of the sellout crowd to head for the exits.
“We knew they’re going to be aggressive obviously and you know we did some really good things as far as getting pucks into the neutral zone and then use our speed from there to get up the ice,” Evason said.
Blues D Nick Leddy and D Robert Bortuzzo and were both scratched after sustaining upper body injuries in Game 1 and Game 2, respectively. On Thursday, the Blues recalled D Steven Santini from Springfield, the team’s AHL affiliate. Santini was a scratch after Marco Scandella, who had missed the last three games to a lower body injury, was given the green light to play.