The St. Louis Blues needed another big performance to take a series lead against the Minnesota Wild, especially playing in the state of hockey. They were not completely sharp in this game, but they ended up getting the job done.
The Blues were actually the better team to open up the game. Similar to other contests against the Wild in this playoff season, the Blues had a flurry of activity only to be held scoreless for much of the first period.
Nevertheless, the Blues got on the board first with Ryan O’Reilly scoring a power play goal. This seemed to indicate good things since the team that has scored first had won each of the previous four games.
Unfortunately, the Blues got very sloppy later in the period. They took two penalties in the first period and Kirill Kaprisov scored on both of them.
The first one seemed like the Blues could have done more to defend the star scorer. The second was just a superstar play by the Russian winger.
Frankly, the Blues were fortunate to get out of the first period only down by one. Once the game was tied, the Blues did nothing but try to defend against Minnesota pressure and they were forced into silly penalties, including one when the Blues had possession that led to the first Wild goal.
Things did not look much better in the second period. St. Louis came out sluggish at first, with several bad shifts by key players like Ivan Barbashev and Robert Thomas. The Blues had one particular power play where Thomas and Jordan Kyrou kept passing it to the wrong team or giving the puck up right as they entered the zone.
This seemed to spell doom for the Blues. However, they kept themselves in it and eventually Kyrou snapped a shot from the wall that got deflected in by the recently silent Brandon Saad to tie it. The Blues kept it tied into the third period, though they were the one trying to gain the lead by the end of 40.
St. Louis wasted little time in the third. Vladimir Tarasenko scored at 1:03 and again at 2:31.
St. Louis suddenly had the game in their back pocket after seemingly being outdone by the Wild for much of the first two periods. Those are the breaks you need.
The Wild pulled their goaltender late in the contest, but the Blues weathered the storm. Jordan Binnington made a couple decent saves and Tarasenko got the empty net goal to put the game on ice.
The Blues finished off a 5-2 win. Now, they could potentially win the series on Thursday evening.
What a night from big daddy Vladi. While the majority of fans have gotten on the Tarasenko train, I still like to point out this was a guy that a vocal portion of the fan base wanted gone in the offseason.
He was washed up. The shoulder was done and he’d never be the same.
30-plus goals in the regular season and three huge goals in Game 5 against Minnesota show that he’s still the star the Blues needed. There has sometimes been a question about his ability to step up when the game is on the line and he did just that in Game 5.
I recently saw some very odd post on Facebook about how game-winning goals in hockey are a misnomer. You can’t say that in this contest.
With the game tied and the series possibly on the line – over 70% of series winners win Game 5 – Tarasenko found a way to get it done. They were not goals that will make Sports Center’s Top 10, but who cares.
In Tarasenko we trust.
Cons: First period end
Credit to the Wild for turning on the gas after they allowed the first goal of the game. They came out with some ferocity and took it to the Blues after that.
However, St. Louis has to find ways to adjust before intermissions. The way the second half of the period went, you just knew the Wild were coming.
The Blues were on their heels for that entire time. As mentioned, St. Louis was fortunate to only surrender the two goals.
When it was 1-1, you could tell the Blues were praying the period would end. The odd thing was they only surrendered 12 shots.
The way St. Louis was struggling to clear their zone and deal with the Wild pressure, you would have thought it was closer to 20 shots.
St. Louis won the game, so it’s a moot point now. They need to find ways to get things stopped before the Wild can get on that kind of roll.
Ryan O’Reilly continued his good, if not great playoff series against the Wild. Other than that, the centers had a rough night.
Tyler Bozak was ok in his role. He was defensively sound and didn’t make many mistakes, which is what the Blues ask of him. However, he remains pointless in this series and also hasn’t even been much of a threat.
Thomas and Barbashev were particularly disappointing. The odd thing was the fact Thomas got somewhat rewarded while Barbashev got put in the doghouse.
I completely understand taking Barbashev off the Russian line. They had not done anything in parts of two games and Barbashev was giving the puck away and not creating plays for his wingers.
However, Thomas’ pass choices were truly awful earlier in this game. He gave the puck up two or three times on one power play alone.
Yet he got double shifted to be the center for Tarasenko and Buchnevich and Barbashev sat. The play worked as St. Louis had a solid third period, but this was a dangerous gamble when you’re only playing 11 forwards as it is.
For the second game in a row, Jordan Binnington came up big. Like Game 4, he did not have to make a ton of unbelievable saves, but he made some good ones.
He came up with a good save in the first few minutes of the game. That is prime time for a contest to get out of hand if you surrender one there.
In the third period, the Blues clamped down on defense. Even so, Binnington had to be on his toes. Sometimes it is actually harder to stay engaged when the shots are not flying in.
The Wild ended up getting 32 shots on goal. Binnington made 30 saves just a couple days after making 28. The only goals he let up were on the power play and against the Wild’s best player.
Just like after Game 4, we don’t need to be making any undue proclamations. We cannot automatically assume Binnington is even close to his 2019 level. That said, he’s earned the net for now and no reason to not give it to him in Game 6.
This game didn’t have quite the impressive feel that Game 4 did. A lot of that was due to the team having closer to a full compliment of defenders and actually not defending as well.
They allowed more shots and gave the Wild too much time in the defensive zone. However, when the only guy to beat you is one of the best on the ice no matter what sweater they’re wearing, you can’t complain too much.
The Blues did the right thing. If you cannot contain Kaprisov, you take away everyone else and St. Louis did that, overall.
The third line hasn’t done anything of note offensively prior to Saad’s goal, but at least they’re keeping their counterparts off the board.
This game was quite a roller coaster ride. When St. Louis score first, we were all pumped because the team to score first has won all the games.
Minnesota answered with two power play goals and the Blues were holding on for dear life. The Blues have been great on special teams, so when you get two power plays scored on you, it’s easy to feel not your night.
Instead, they started chipping away. Kyrou had not had a good night to the point he got an assist, but finally just put one on net and something good happened. Saad had also been too quiet, so it was a great time for him to get on the scoresheet.
There’s nothing more to say about Tarasenko really. I don’t want this article to take on an I told you so mentality. I would like fans to drop the whole idea of trading him at all. Let the guy play out his contract at this point.
Ah, but what a wonderful time the playoffs are. Two games ago, the Blues seemed on the brink and now they’re on the edge of gaining a first-round win.
The opponent ahead is daunting, but the Blues cannot look to that. Minnesota is going to do everything in their power to stay alive in Game 6. The Blues have to be ready right from the opening puck drop. At least a win in these dumb late contests makes staying up worth it.