ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP)David Perron was quarantined in his basement last year, listening to his kids run around upstairs and watching the St. Louis Blues get swept out of the first round.
The 15-year veteran right wing sure showed his appreciation for being back in the playoffs.
Perron had a hat trick and an assist to lead the Blues past the Minnesota Wild 4-0 on Monday night in Game 1 of their first-round series, one year after COVID-19 kept him out of the postseason.
”It’s been a long way coming,” said Perron, who’s on his third stint with St. Louis and posted the 14th three-goal game in franchise history. ”I have a lot of pride wearing the Blue note.”
Ryan O’Reilly had a goal and an assist, Torey Krug added three assists and Ville Husso made 37 saves for the shutout in his postseason debut for the Blues, who seized home-ice advantage from a Wild team they’ve had their way with in recent years.
By blocking 17 shots, clogging the passing lanes and dominating on both special teams, the confident Blues quieted Xcel Energy Center quickly with a 2-0 first-period lead and never let the crowd – that the Wild pushed so hard to play in front of to start the postseason – become a factor.
”It’s part of the game and it’s important, but we’ve been a good road team for quite some time here,” Blues coach Craig Berube said.
Particularly on the power play, having led the league with a 29.4% scoring rate in 41 road games this season. Perron scored on each of the first two power plays for the the Blues, who went 6 for 6 on the penalty kill.
That was the greatest source of frustration for the Wild on a night marked by up-close misfires and clanged posts. They had a 55-28 edge on the Blues in shots attempted over the first two periods, but 14 of them went wide of the net.
”Our view from the eye view is that we were pretty good,” Wild coach Dean Evason said. ”We had pretty good opportunities, and we didn’t give much on the other end. That’ll give us a lot of positivity going forward.”
Game 2 is here Wednesday night, before the series shifts south to St. Louis.
Marc-Andre Fleury got the nod in goal for the Wild over All-Star Cam Talbot, who went 13-0-3 in his last 16 starts. Fleury, the reigning Vezina Trophy winner and three-time Stanley Cup champion, was acquired in a trade with Chicago on March 21.
The Wild were insistent there was no bad decision to make and that both goalies would be needed throughout the postseason, but if they don’t get their special teams on track this might be a short run. The Wild set franchise records for wins (53) and points (113) to nudge past the Blues for second place in the Central Division, despite a power play that ranked 18th in the NHL and a penalty kill that was 25th in the league.
Fleury started strong with a pad save on a penalty shot by Ivan Barbashev, but Perron put the Blues on the board less than three minutes later. After Brayden Schenn checked Wild defenseman Matt Dumba to the head and knocked him over, Jordan Greenway was called for roughing to give the Blues their first power play. Perron scored on a rebound, flinging his body forward to land on his knees after his stick connected with the puck just before the extra-skater time expired.
Fleury stopped 27 shots.
Husso was picked over Jordan Binnington, who backstopped the Blues all the way to the Stanley Cup title as a rookie in 2019. For the first game, at least, the inexperience once again didn’t matter in the St. Louis net.
”It’s really nice for a first playoff game,” Husso said. ”We were ready right away.”
Perron has plenty of time on ice when the moments are the most tense, with 92 career playoff games coming into the series. None last year, though, because he had to sit out with the virus while the Blues were swept by Colorado.
”The worst part is not being a part of the team, just helping out however you could,” Perron said. ”I was literally going crazy.”
Perron bounced back in a big way against his friend – and fellow Quebecois – Fleury, who played with him on the Vegas team that reached the Stanley Cup finals in 2018 and also with Pittsburgh in 2015.
”We know each other very well. He’s a good shooter. He’s always a threat around the net, I know,” Fleury said. ”It seems like every puck on the power play just ended up on his stick.”
The Blues held defenseman Marco Scandella (lower body) out with an injury that occurred in their second-to-last regular season game. Niko Mikola took his place on the third pair. … Defenseman Alex Goligoski was the most notable healthy scratch for the Wild. … The last time the Wild had home-ice advantage for the playoffs in 2017, the Blues won the first two games in Minnesota and took the series in five games.
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