The Wild now move on to Round 2 where they’ll face the Chicago Blackhawks for the third consecutive postseason.
The backbreaking goal was Parise’s first of the game, which came shorthanded 7:56 into the opening period. Blues goalie Jake Allen didn’t look comfortable from the start and Parise’s goal was evident of that.
Those are the kind of road goals that can turn a game, and it certainly didn't help the Blues.
While Allen recovered and the Blues kept scraping away to get back into the game, St. Louis head coach Ken Hitchcock did a bench interview with NBC’s Brian Engblom during the second period. When asked if he thought about pulling Allen after that Parise goal, Hitchcock replied, "No. He's a young guy. He's learning. Gotta stick with him.”
Thirty-one real-time seconds later Justin Fontaine doubled Minnesota’s lead:
That was enough for Hitchcock to change his mind and bring on Brian Elliott to finish the game.
T.J. Oshie cut the Minnesota lead to 2-1 with a sharp-angle goal with 1.8 seconds left in the second period. But any hope of a Blues comeback was ended early in the final period when Parise netted his second of the afternoon 1:01 into the third after a perfectly executed Wild breakout created a rebound opportunity for the Minnesota forward:
“You know, it just feels right," said Dubnyk to Engblom afterward. "I kind of said that before. This is how I know we’re ready for it, I’m ready for it. This feels like where we’re supposed to be. Same with the game tonight. I just had a great feeling we were going to come out and respond. It was incredible to play behind these guys.”
The postseason struggles continue for St. Louis. Since the 2001-02 season, the Blues have advanced out of the first round only once (2012), and given the high expectations this season for Ken Hitchcock and his squad, there’s a good chance there will be some major overhauling done in the summer.
The list of unemployed NHL head coaches is already pretty loaded with the likes of Todd McLellan and Dan Bylsma looking for new gigs, and the potential of Claude Julien, Dave Tippett and, of course, Mike Babcock being available. How long until we add Hitchcock’s name to the list?
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