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Blues blow out Wild to even playoff series

ST. PAUL - Needing a win - any kind of win - to avoid a deep hole in their first-round playoff series, the St. Louis Blues acted decisively Wednesday night.

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St. Louis Blues forward David Backes scores a goal against Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk during the first period of Game 4 of their NHL Western Conference first-round playoff series Wednesday at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. USA Today Sports

ST. PAUL – Needing a win – any kind of win – to avoid a deep hole in their first-round playoff series, the St. Louis Blues acted decisively Wednesday night.

St. Louis quieted the crowd with an early lead and survived the Minnesota Wild’s brief rally, winning 6-1 and knotting the best-of-7 Western Conference series at 2-2.

Right winger Vladimir Tarasenko scored twice. Fellow right wingers Ryan Reaves and David Backes as well as centers Paul Stastny and Patrik Berglund all scored single goals for the Blues, who led 3-0 barely halfway through the first period.

St. Louis goalie Jake Allen had 17 saves as the Blues recaptured home-ice advantage in the series. Game 5 will be played Friday night in St. Louis.

Defenseman Jared Spurgeon scored the lone goal for Minnesota, which looked tentative early and sustained its most lopsided playoff loss.

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Uneven play by the home team, and some opportunistic play by the Blues, made it a rough night for Minnesota goalie Devan Dubnyk. He allowed four goals on the Blues’ first dozen shots and finished with just 11 saves on 17 shots. Backup goalie Darcy Kuemper came on with 3 minutes, 10 seconds left in the second period, and he stopped all nine shots he faced.

The Blues snapped a streak of nine consecutive playoff road losses by earning their first postseason win away from home since 2012.

In Game 2, the Blues needed 20 minutes to get their first four shots on goal. They did that in four minutes Wednesday, and their fifth shot went in when Reaves took a hard shot on the ice from the blue line that fooled Dubnyk, giving St. Louis a quick 1-0 lead.

It was 2-0 just 85 seconds later when Tarasenko tipped a long shot by defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk into the upper corner of the net, over Dubnyk’s right shoulder. It was the first of Shattenkirk’s three assists.

Minnesota killed off the game’s first power play, only to see Backes make it 3-0 when the first period was barely half over. Another long-range shot by Shattenkirk was blocked by Dubnyk at the top of the crease. The goalie dropped to his knees in an attempt to smother the shot, but Backes crashed to the net and poked the puck free, slipping it over the goal line for his first goal of the series.

The Wild began the second period on a power play, and finally gave their crowd a reason to erupt when Spurgeon caught a pass from right winger Nino Niederreiter and hit the upper left corner of the net, making it 3-1.

But the home crowd’s euphoria was short-lived, as Stastny scored his first goal of the playoffs less than two minutes later, beating Dubnyk between the skates and re-establishing a three-goal lead.

Tarasenko and Berglund both scored before the second period was done, chasing Dubnyk from the net. It was a rare off night for the Minnesota goalie, who turned the team’s season around in mid-January when he was acquired in a trade with Arizona. He went 27-9-2 in 39 regular-season starts for the Wild, and he shut out the Blues in Game 3.

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