Vladimir Tarasenko scored twice and the revived St. Louis Blues sent Minnesota goalie Devan Dubnyk to an early exit and thoroughly dominated the Wild in a 6-1 victory in Game 4 to even the Western Conference quarterfinal series Wednesday night.
Kevin Shattenkirk had three assists and Jake Allen made 17 saves to help the Blues end a nine-game postseason road losing streak that lasted more than three years.
Patrik Berglund had a goal and an assist, and David Backes and Paul Stastny scored for the first time in the series. So did fourth-line right wing Ryan Reaves, whose one-timer from the point got past Dubnyk's glove to give the Blues the early lead. By the middle of the first period, they were 3-0 after being shut out in Game 3.
Jared Spurgeon's power-play goal early in the second period gave the Wild and their fans some life. But less than 2 minutes later, Stastny snapped a shot on the rush from the circle on Dubnyk's right that slipped between the goalie's pads. Dubnyk gave up six goals on 17 shots and was pulled with 3:10 left in the second period.
Game 5 is in St. Louis on Friday night.
Six Blues players had their first point of the series, and the Wild set a woeful franchise record for most goals allowed in a playoff game. Tarasenko had a hat trick in Game 2 but was held without a shot on goal in the other two contests.
The Blues had spent the better part of the series trying to lure the Wild into a grind-it-out, drop-the-gloves kind of game, while the Wild confidently stuck to their speed-based style without so much as a shove in return. Coach Ken Hitchcock shuffled his left wings and returned Steen to his familiar line with the captain Backes and T.J. Oshie, and the Blues brought all the energy they were missing on Monday night to the ice from the opening faceoff.
The Wild finally drew a penalty, hooking on Nino Niederreiter to end a stretch of 94-plus minutes without one, but the story of their sudden demise was about the disappearance of the stifling defense they flustered the Blues with in Game 3. Instead of clogging the shooting lanes and forcing the play to the perimeter, the Blues had their way in the Wild zone and sent plenty of uncontested shots Dubnyk's way.
The goalie, whose unflappable performance since his acquisition in a mid-January trade with Arizona was the biggest reason the Wild even made the playoffs, was not without blame, though. This was the most goals the Wild allowed since a 7-2 loss to Pittsburgh, the day before they dealt for Dubnyk.