Wild takes control of series with Game 3 blowout win over Blues

Wild takes control of series with Game 3 blowout win over Blues

ST. LOUIS – Kirill Kaprizov was still in Russia, Jordan Greenway was a rookie who left college earlier in the year and Marc-Andre Fleury was backstopping Vegas.

That’s how long it had been since the Wild won in St. Louis.

But this drought finally ended and from a downpour, a 5-1 clinic by the Wild on Friday night in Game 3 at Enterprise Center to earn a 2-1 edge in the best-of-seven and reclaim home-ice advantage in the first -round series.

“It’s good to get a win here, get some confidence,” Mats Zuccarello said. “At the same time, this game is over. You’re looking towards the next one.”

Kaprizov scored his team-leading fourth goal, Greenway ignited the offense with a record-setter and Fleury stopped 29 shots to tie Grant Fuhr for the third-most playoff victories at 92.

As for the Wild, the team improved to 8-7 overall in Game 3s and 2-2 when on the road while picking up its first victory at St. Louis since Nov. 11, 2018, and end a seven-game losing streak. Game 4 is Sunday afternoon.

“We don’t remember what’s happened,” coach Dean Evason said. “Today we had success. We have to build for the next game. I don’t remember anything else.”

Taking their turn as the home team, the Blues immediately flexed the advantage that comes with hosting by getting last change and thereby dictating the on-ice matchup.

They started the Ryan O’Reilly checking line against the Wild’s “GREEF” trio after the three had limited the impact of St. Louis’ go-to scorers in Pavel Buchnevich, Robert Thomas and Vladimir Tarasenko in Minnesota.

But this change didn’t help the Blues.

On that very first shift, a clearing attempt by Marcus Foligno was gobbled up by Joel Eriksson Ek, who set up Greenway for a 2-on-1 shot that flew by St. Louis goalie Ville Husso just 39 seconds after puck drop — the second game in a row the Wild has scored on its first shot.

“It’s big to go out and not allow them to get momentum from their crowd and being in their own arena,” Greenway said.

This counted as the fastest goal to begin a playoff game in Wild history and after Kaprizov doubled the Wild’s lead just 1:39 later, the team had another record with the two quickest goals to start a playoff game in 2:18.

Kaprizov also converted on an odd-man rush, a breakaway try that was initially stopped, but he banked the rebound in off Husso’s left skate.

“He is one of those players who finds a way to score from anywhere,” Zuccarello said of Kaprizov, who has both game-winners for the Wild in this series and the second-most goals overall in the Stanley Cup playoffs. “It’s nothing new for us.”

Through three games, Kaprizov is up to four goals and only two players in Wild history have recorded more in a single series: Marian Gaborik and Wes Walz each had five in 2003 vs. Vancouver.

“From that point on, I felt like we had the puck a lot,” Fleury said, “and we didn’t give them too much.”

The Blues, who had Torey Krug leave the game with a lower-body injury, tried to flip momentum by roughing up the Wild, dishing out a whopping 21 hits in the first period compared to only five for the Wild, but the tactic didn’ don’t work; not only did the Wild continue to find holes in the St. Louis defense to test Husso with quality scoring chances, but the Wild stayed discipline to avoid getting baited into penalties. Husso ended up making 28 saves.

“We know if they come and try to run around and hit us, we can make plays,” Eriksson Ek said, “and hopefully get chances from them being out of place.”

At 7:44 of the second period, Zuccarello wired in a shot off a 2-on-1 rush for his first playoff goal with the Wild. Kaprizov’s assist gave him back-to-back multi-point playoff games for the first time in his NHL career.

Then just 22 seconds into the third, Eriksson Ek had his third tally of the series on a textbook shift.

After he forced a turnover with a hit on the Blues’ Brayden Schenn, Foligno scooped up the puck and fed Eriksson Ek for a one-timer. Each player finished with two points, and this was the fastest playoff goal to begin a third period in team history.

Eriksson Ek has multiple points in consecutive playoff games for the first time in his career.

Soon after, St. Louis spoiled Fleury’s shutout bid with a shot by O’Reilly that clipped the post before sailing in at 2:17 on the power play. The Blues went 1-for-3 and the Wild 0-for-4.

But that’s as close as St. Louis would get; Jonas Brodin flung the puck 163 feet into an empty net at 12:31, Ryan Hartman’s assist was his second of the night and the Wild celebrated a victory on Blues ice for the first time in almost three-and-a-half years.

“We definitely wanted to go out there and attack them as much as we can,” Greenway said, “and we did.”

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