St. Louis Blues vs Minnesota Wild: Tarasenko hat trick helps Blues take 3-2 series lead on Wild
Vladimir Tarasenko had three goals in the third period to break open a tied game and series, and the St. Louis Blues pushed the Minnesota Wild to the edge of elimination with a 5-2 victory in Game 5 on Tuesday night.
Ryan O’Reilly scored for the fourth time in the series and Brandon Saad got the tying goal late in the second period as the Blues upstaged a stellar performance by Wild star Kirill Kaprizov. Kaprizov brought the building to life on yet another late-night start — puck drop was at 8:50 p.m. local time — by scoring twice on Minnesota’s previously sluggish power play in the first period. Kaprizov has an NHL-leading seven goals in the playoffs, already a Wild record for a series. The Wild are 4 for 19 on the power play, and Kaprizov has three of the goals. The series returns to St. Louis for Game 6 on Thursday night. If the Blues win, Game 7 would be back in Minnesota on Saturday. The top-seeded Colorado Avalanche, fresh off a sweep of the Nashville Predators, are waiting in the second round. Entering this year, there have been 277 best-of-seven postseason matchups in NHL history that were tied at two games apiece. The Game 5 winner went on to take the series 219 times, a whopping .791 winning percentage. Jordan Binnington made 30 saves for his second straight win after Ville Husso was benched, again bettering Wild goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. Pavel Buchnevich outmuscled Jacob Middleton for the puck behind the net and fed Tarasenko for the go-ahead score with 63 seconds elapsed after the second intermission. Then Tarasenko, who bounced back strong with 34 goals in 2021-22 after consecutive injury-wrecked seasons, gave the Blues a two-goal lead with his wrist shot from the high slot just 1:28 later. He tacked on an empty-netter with 1:33 remaining. The Blues bolstered their blue line by bringing Robert Bortuzzo and Nick Leddy back from their upper-body injuries that kept them out of the two games in St. Louis, though defensemen Torey Krug and Marco Scandella were again absent with lower-body injuries. Rookie Scott Perunovich, who appeared in the lineup in Game 4 for his first action in four months, was the seventh defenseman to suit up while the Blues made only 11 forwards active. The native of Hibbing, Minnesota, has landed on the top power-play unit and made his presence felt there right away after Middleton was whistled for cross-checking — a dubious call from the view of the booing home crowd — to give the visitors the man advantage just 4:06 into the game. Perunovich’s slap shot forced Fleury to create a rebound, and after a scramble for the puck that Brayden Schenn won in front of the crease, O’Reilly found it with an open net to knock it in. Kaprizov had seen enough of the power play imbalance by that point. Marcus Foligno screened Binnington on Kaprizov’s first goal, a wrister that buzzed over the goaltender’s glove. Then on another man advantage situation less than four minutes later, Kaprizov hustled to take possession the puck from an off-balance Colton Parayko and kept the play alive. Kevin Fiala passed from the corner to the back edge of the left circle, where Kaprizov snapped a shot into the narrow slice of space above Binnington’s right shoulder and the back corner of the net. That gave the Wild a 2-1 edge, completing the first lead change in the series.
Fleury stopped 27 shots. ... Marian Gaborik, with nine goals in 18 games in 2003, holds the Wild scoring record for a single postseason. Zach Parise, with 16 goals in 44 games, has the most career playoff goals in franchise history. Kaprizov, with nine goals in 12 games, is already tied for fourth on the all-time list. ... Wild defensemen Jonas Brodin and Jared Spurgeon each played in their 60th career postseason game, breaking Mikko Koivu’s franchise record. ... This was Saad’s 20th career postseason game against Minnesota, including 15 with Chicago, but just his fourth goal. ... The Blues have at least one power play goal in all five games. They’re 6 for 20 in the series.
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