|Date of game: 4/11/2015
Recap: St. Louis vs. Minnesota
St. Louis, MO (SportsNetwork.com) - Jori Lehtera's two goals and 23 saves from Brian Elliott led the St. Louis Blues to a 4-2 win over the Minnesota Wild in a prelude to a first-round Western Conference playoff series.
The Central Division champion Blues (51-24-7) will be the second seed in the West, behind only Anaheim. The teams each finished with 109 points, but the Ducks claimed the tiebreaker with one more non-shootout win.
St. Louis will face Minnesota in the conference quarterfinals. The Wild finished as the top wild card in the West.
"It doesn't matter who we play in the first round," Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko said. "If you want to win a Cup, you've got to win them all. We'll just wait on our opponent and start preparing (Sunday)."
Minnesota (46-28-8) won't have home-ice advantage, but probably won't mind starting on the road. The Wild had won 12 consecutive games away from home, tying an NHL record set by the 2005-06 Detroit Red Wings, prior to Saturday's setback.
Tarasenko added a goal and an assist for the Blues in his return from a five- game absence caused by a lower-body injury. Alex Steen, who missed St. Louis' previous six contests with a lower-body issue of his own, contributed two assists.
"I was a little antsy, wanted to get back in," Steen said. "It was nice to have a game."
Marco Scandella and Zach Parise each scored for Minnesota, but Devan Dubnyk stopped just 11-of-14 shots before being removed after two periods.
"It's a game that you let go and get ready for the important stuff," Dubnyk said afterward.
This matchup between two of the league's top defensive teams was scoreless until the Blues' Dmitrij Jaskin ended the stalemate with 6:33 left in the second period. Working a give-and-go with Olli Jokinen, the young forward slipped a shot through Dubnyk's pads for his 13th goal of the season.
Both offenses then came to life later in the stanza, with the teams combining for three goals over the final two minutes.
Tarasenko put St. Louis up by two by chipping the puck over Dubnyk's glove after receiving a pinpoint feed from Steen, but Scandella connected on a long wrist shot through heavy traffic just 51 seconds later to bring the Wild within 2-1.
The Blues had a quick response, though, as Lehtera took in another crisp pass from Steen and finished a transition rush with a lifter above Dubnyk's shoulder with just 29 seconds to go in the second.
Lehtera's attempted centering pass, which caromed off the skate of Wild defenseman Nate Prosser and trickled past replacement goalie Darcy Kuemper on a power play, all but put the game away 5:03 into the third period.
Parise converted a power-play chance with 37.6 seconds left to play to close out the scoring.Game Notes
The Wild hadn't permitted more than two goals at any time during their 12-game
road winning streak ... Minnesota rested defensemen Ryan Suter and Jared
Spurgeon along with forwards Mikko Koivu, Justin Fontaine and Ryan Carter,
though Parise, Thomas Vanek and Nino Niederreiter (bruised foot) returned to
the lineup after sitting out Thursday's win at Nashville ... The Blues held
out captain David Backes along with forwards T.J. Oshie and Steve Ott and
defenseman Alex Pietrangelo ... Kuemper finished with eight saves in relief of
Dubnyk ... Parise's goal was the first allowed by St. Louis on the power play
in seven games.