ST. LOUIS (AP) — There was no containing Vladimir Tarasenko this time around.
Held to an assist without a shot in a deflating Game 1 loss, Tarasenko responded with his first career playoff hat trick, and the St. Louis Blues beat the Minnesota Wild 4-1 on Saturday to even their first-round series at a game apiece.
“You need to forget whatever it was. Bad game, good game, doesn’t matter,” Tarasenko said.
“You need to make a next step. If you think about your success, you’ll stop playing.”
Tarasenko scored two goals in the first period and an empty-netter with 17 seconds remaining in an impressive performance more in line with his play in the regular season. The dynamic winger ran his playoff total to seven goals in nine games.
“We need him to rise up,” coach Ken Hitchcock said. “For us to have success, our best players have to be significant, and that was a big step today.
“We needed more of that and we got it.”
Patrik Berglund stole the puck from Jordan Schroeder at center ice and beat Devan Dubnyk for a two-goal cushion with 1:58 to go, sending the Central Division champions to Minnesota with the momentum for Game 3 on Monday night. It was Berglund’s fifth career playoff goal.
“You lose a game and it’s frustrating, it’s disappointing,” Wild coach Mike Yeo said. “We knew we were going to face their best game.
“We’ll find a way to get better.”
The Wild trimmed St. Louis’ lead to 2-1 when Marco Scandella scored on a slap shot that broke his stick and snuck past Jake Allen at 1:46 of the third. Allen, the first rookie goaltender to win a playoff game for the Blues since 1990, survived another few close calls before the final flurry.
Minnesota had won 13 of its last 14 road games, including a 12-game streak that ended in the regular-season finale in St. Louis after it had clinched a wild card and several regulars were rested.
Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk assisted on both of Tarasenko’s goals in the first period, giving him four points in the series.
The Blues made several slick passes to set up Tarasenko’s deflection of a shot from the point by Alexander Steen at 13:18.
Tarasenko scored on the Blues’ next shot on a power play late in the first. Dubnyk strayed just enough from guarding the post and the Blues’ top scorer snuck one in off the goalie’s pad from a severe angle at 18:01.
“That’s just a mistake by me,” Dubnyk said. “It’s not a good goal. Make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Besides the empty-netter, Tarasenko had two more good chances in the second period, a lunging one-timer and a quality shot on the rush near the buzzer. He set career highs with 37 goals and 36 assists in the regular season.
Thomas Vanek and Charlie Coyle assisted on Scandella’s fourth career playoff goal, with all three earning their first point of the series.
Coyle hit the crossbar falling to his knees with just under nine minutes to go, and Blues captain David Backes cleared the puck from the crease.
Allen used much of his body to make a save midway through the second period after a dump-in by Ryan Suter deflected off a seam in the glass. The puck bounced into the crease and ended up inches from the goal line after Allen first tried to wedge it out with a pad and then fumbled with his glove before finally securing it, somehow, under the top of his stick.
“We have some weird glass here,” Allen said. “It hit my left pad, hit my right skate and then I turned around and honestly, just saw it and tried to pounce on it.”
NOTES: The Blues have 13 playoff hat tricks; Mike Sillinger had the previous one in 2004 against San Jose. Tarasenko’s performance also was the first playoff hat trick in the NHL since Rene Bourque for Montreal on May 27, 2014. … The Blues are 5-13 in their last 18 playoff games. … Wild F Justin Fontaine was scratched due to illness. He came to the rink hoping to play. … Andrea Karl, the women’s winner of the Go! St. Louis Marathon, was introduced on the videoboard midway through the first period. … The last Blues rookie goalie to win in the playoffs was Curtis Joseph against Toronto on April 12, 1990.
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