ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP)The Minnesota Wild fell behind St. Louis early and into a pattern of frustration-fueled gaffes late, playing right into the hands of the Blues in the Game 1 blowout.
Even Jared Spurgeon got sucked in.
The team captain, stalwart defenseman and perennial Lady Byng award candidate took one of the Wild’s five penalties in the third period, for cross-checking Pavel Buchnevich with a savage blow into the back of the legs of the Blues left wing during the 4-0 loss.
”When Jared Spurgeon does something like that? That means your group is off kilter a little bit,” Wild coach Dean Evason said.
The Wild were definitely that. They had a 70-42 advantage in shot attempts, but the shots on goal were just 37-31. A lot of blocks by the Blues and missed nets by the Wild contributed to the bad mood down the stretch. Many of the fans who didn’t bolt early on a school and work night with a made-for-TV local faceoff time of 8:45 p.m. booed the home team when the final horn sounded.
”Today we’re not frustrated. Today it’s gone. Tomorrow we’re not going to be frustrated,” Evason said. ”We’re going to be excited. We’re going to be ready to go, and our group has let that go. It’s had the ability to look forward and learn from the past. We’ll do that again tomorrow.”
At least Spurgeon will be there for Game 2 on Wednesday night. He was spared a suspension, no doubt helped by his sterling reputation. The NHL fined him $5,000 on Tuesday, the maximum allowable amount under the collective bargaining agreement.
”It’s not something I’m really proud of, something I don’t usually do. Just got a little frustrated, and just happy he’s alright,” Spurgeon said. ”That’s not the player I am. Not very happy with myself, to say the least.”
The back of Buchnevich’s right skate appeared to clip Spurgeon in the head during their tangle in the left circle in the final minutes of the Blues’ victory.
”That’s a bad penalty. He knows it. We know it. We’ve got to clean it up,” Evason said.
The Blues are now 6-1-2 in their last nine games at Xcel Energy Center and the latest win stole the home ice advantage from the Wild, who were a woeful 0-6 on the power play.
”We are all for playing hard and physical,” Blues defenseman Torey Krug said on Tuesday. ”I think you see a guy in a vulnerable position, and obviously he probably tried to hurt him. I don’t think he is that type of player. I think it’s maybe in the moment, where he is frustrated and tried to take a shot at him. Good thing is Buchy is OK. The league handled it the way they can. Can’t really do anything about it but move on. Good thing is – got another game against him tomorrow night.”
Linemates Marcus Foligno and Jordan Greenway combined for 18 penalty minutes, with Greenway getting a roughing call early in the first period for punching Blues star Vladimir Tarasenko.
”Just play between the whistles. You don’t get a penalty most of the time if you’re just finishing your checks. You can hit a guy as hard as you possibly can,” Evason said. ”But once the whistles blows and there’s a scrum, we stressed to the guys, `What’s the point of punching a guy in the face with your glove on?’ It might hurt a little bit. But not that much. If guys want to fight, then fight.”
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