ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota was killing an early penalty when Zach Parise snagged a loose puck in the neutral zone, raced away from St. Louis and triggered a huge roar from the home crowd with his highlight-reel goal off a bad-angle shot.
That was a bad sign for the Blues. Game 6 belonged to Parise and the Wild.
Parise scored twice, including that short-handed goal to get the Wild going in the first period on their way to a 4-1 victory over the Blues in Game 6 of the series on Sunday for a spot in the Western Conference semifinals.
“He’s tenacious. He’s an all-world player for a reason, because he works his butt off and he’s able to find opportunities like that,” Blues captain David Backes said, praising Parise after the third straight first-round ouster by the Blues.
Justin Fontaine also scored, Nino Niederreiter added an empty-net goal and the Wild set up a rematch with Chicago. The Blackhawks, who beat Nashville in six games to move on, knocked the Wild out in six games in the second round last year and in five games in the first round the year before that.
“I think we’re all ready for them,” Fontaine said.
Devan Dubnyk made 30 saves, giving him 66 over the last two games after the 6-1 defeat here that allowed the Blues to tie the series. The Wild outscored the Blues 8-2 after that. This was the 10th straight postseason loss for the Blues when facing elimination.
“It’s hard to win when you’re chasing games all the time,” coach Ken Hitchcock said.
Hitchcock pulled goalie Jake Allen for Brian Elliott after Fontaine scored with 8:41 left in the second period, and T.J. Oshie’s first goal of the series came with 4 seconds left before the second intermission to give the Blues some life. They outshot the Wild 27-11 over the last two periods, too.
Parise’s next goal came on a rebound of Jason Pominville’s attempt early in the third, though, and Dubnyk and the Wild were in lockdown mode after that. Only one of the six games in the series was decided by less than three goals, a 4-2 win by the Wild in Game 1, and the average margin was 3.2.
“They are as tough a team as any to play against,” Dubnyk said. “We should enjoy that and realize that we deserve to win the series.”
The building was buzzing from the start, befitting of the opportunity to see the Wild celebrate a postseason advancement at home for the first time. The Wild won three of their previous nine playoff series, all with Game 7 victories on the road.
“It meant a lot to us to try to win this game in front of our fans,” coach Mike Yeo said. “They deserved that.”
Matt Cooke set up Parise’s remarkable play on his way to the bench by knocking Paul Stastny off the puck and diving to deflect it toward Parise, who evaded a check attempt by Kevin Shattenkirk and snapped a shot between Allen’s right arm and the near post into the far side of the net.
“He was kind of in that paddle-down position,” Parise said. “I thought I was a little far out to hit a hole, but you just try to raise it a little and get lucky.”
Allen was disheartened afterward.
“I was more focused today than I ever was all year. Just two bad goals that can’t go in at this time of year,” said Allen, who stopped 11 shots. “Right now, it’s going to sit with me in a terrible way for a while.”
Dubnyk made a big save soon after the St. Louis change when Chris Porter crashed the net on his shot from the slot. The puck was dislodged during the scrum in the crease but after the whistle, and a replay review upheld the no-goal call. Porter was so upset on the bench afterward he was caught on camera snapping the blade off his stick.
“It’s the worst. You put in a lot of months, a lot of effort,” Blues center Steve Ott said. “You never know when you get a special group like we had in here.”
NOTES: Parise matched Marian Gaborik for franchise lead with 22 playoffs points in 24 games. Gaborik played in 29 postseason games with the Wild. … Shattenkirk is the league’s postseason leader with eight assists. … The last time St. Louis staved off elimination in the playoffs was April 23, 2000, a Game 6 win at San Jose in the first round. The Blues lost Game 7 to the Sharks. … Jack Morris led the traditional “Let’s Play Hockey!” chant in his home city. His Major League Baseball career was spawned in St. Paul.
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