Wild give Blues cold shoulder with 3-0 win

Wild win Game 3
Minnesota Wild right wing Nino Niederreiter (22), of Switzerland, and right wing Jason Pominville (29) celebrated Niederreiter's empty-net goal against the St. Louis Blues during the third period of Game 3 of an NHL hockey first-round playoff series game in St. Paul, Monday, April 20, 2015. (Ann Heisenfelt | AP)
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Wild give Blues cold shoulder with 3-0 win
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The Minnesota Wild are riding high after beating the St. Louis Blues 3-0 Monday night in front of a raucous hometown crowd in St. Paul.

They now have a 2-1 lead in the NHL Western Conference playoff series against St. Louis.

• Recap: Pominville, Parise give Wild 3-0 win over Blues

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Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk played his first ever home playoff game at the Xcel Energy Center. After the Wild scored the game's first goal in the second period, Dubnyk said his ears were ringing.

"It was like playing deaf. You couldn't hear sticks, or pucks or bodies or anything. You just pushed around and tried to stay focused," he said. "It was a lot of fun. I thought we used it to our advantage."

Dubnyk stopped 17 shots on goal and shut out Blues' scorers. The sellout crowd also used their voices to goad the Blues goalie, Jake Allen.

St. Louis is perennial playoff contender, but has bowed out in the first round in the last two years. The Wild got as far as the conference semifinals last year.

Minnesota native and Wild star Zach Parise said fans expect high-caliber play.

"Hockey, in particular, it's just part of the culture here. And I think that they're loyal and they're excited about us being in the postseason," he said. "You want to give them a good performance, you want to put on a good show for them."

It's been an up and down year for the Minnesota Wild. They began the season with some national hockey writers predicting the team could make the Western Conference Finals.

But after a hot start, the Wild's luck took strange and sad turns.

The team's two star players, Parise and defenseman Ryan Suter, both dealt with the deaths of their fathers. And then five Wild players missed games due to the mumps.

But then the Wild went on a dominating run, working back into the playoff hunt with the one of the NHL's best second-half records.

Minnesota Wild fans
Corey Richards and his 3-year-old daughter Autumn Richards played while waiting for the gates to open Monday, April 20, 2015, before the Minnesota Wild playoff game against the St. Louis Blues at the Xcel Center in St. Paul. (Jennifer Simonson | MPR News)

Most Wild fans will say one player was key.

Sherri Swanson, of Plymouth, a partial season-ticket holder, said the Wild's trade in January changed the season.

"Dubnyk, he made a big difference," she said. "The whole team in general has been good. But he's made it. That's why we're here."

The 28-year-old Dubnyk has gone 27-9-2 since joining the Wild and some have made arguments for his winning the league's MVP award.

But Coach Mike Yeo said the Wild also have more depth than in previous years, including several players with valuable playoff experience.

"The team atmosphere is very good right now," he said. "Everybody's all in for each other and obviously we're hoping to make this a very long run here, which means that everyone will factor in."

Across from the Xcel Energy Center, Eagle Street Grille co-owner Joe Kasel said playoff hockey fills his bar even during away games.

"When the Wild make the playoffs it's exceptional for us," he said.

"Generally speaking, the fans come out real hot and heavy during the playoffs. There's a lot more of them," Kasel said. "And we tend to get a lot of people who can't get tickets to get into the game will come down and watch the game in the bars and restaurants in the area."

Game 4 is at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday in Minnesota. The series goes back to St. Louis on Friday for Game 5.