Wild believe they have a special journey ahead

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- It was only fitting for Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" to be blaring from the sound system in the Minnesota Wild locker room Sunday evening.

The Wild had just eliminated the St. Louis Blues with a 4-1 win in Game 6 of their Western Conference first-round Stanley Cup playoff series.

"It's a great accomplishment what we just did ... and we're not done," said Wild coach Mike Yeo.

Standing right below one of the speakers was Wild assistant captain Zach Parise, who scored a pair of goals, including a short-handed tally. It's been an emotional season for him and his teammates.

Now, it's only going to get more intense.

Minnesota will face the Chicago Blackhawks in the second round, the third consecutive postseason the teams have met, with the Blackhawks winning the previous two series.

"Don't get me wrong, it's great for us to win and beat a really good St. Louis team, and we should enjoy it for a couple of days and we'll be looking forward to our series against Chicago," Parise said. "That's a team that's knocked us out the last couple of years, so we've got to be ready for them."

From a personal standpoint, Parise is motivated for other reasons. His father and former Minnesota North Stars legend, J.P. Parise, passed away in January after a battle with lung cancer. After Sunday's victory, Zach was asked if his dad was on his mind.

"He always is," Parise said with a smile. "There's not a time that I come to the rink, or throughout the day where he's not. Yeah, I'm always thinking of him."

Quickly, however, Parise wanted to discuss the team's accomplishment and not any individual performances from this series.

Yeo said he would give Parise an "unbelievable amount of credit" for his performance this series, but the coach also credited the entire team for beating a Western Conference regular-season powerhouse.

"This is a time for guys certainly to be recognized individually, but also collectively as a group," Yeo said. "Every guy put in everything we needed them to, and we said before the game we can't have any regrets here. We have to leave it all out there on the ice, and our guys did that."

It was the first time in franchise history Minnesota clinched a playoff series on home ice. A major reason for this team advancing to the second round is the play of goaltender Devan Dubnyk. He's been outstanding for the Wild ever since he arrived via trade from the Arizona Coyotes in January.

The Vezina Trophy finalist finished with 30 saves in Game 6, totaling 66 saves in the past two games against the Blues.

"The story continues," Yeo said of his goaltender. "That's what we're hoping for here, and there's more to this story. His play was outstanding. That team challenges you in a lot of different ways. They get a lot of pucks to the net. As much as anything, it's sort of his demeanor that trickles through to the rest of the group."

After the Game 6 win, Dubnyk had to sit in his stall because he was exhausted. He's admittedly been in a reflective mood the past few weeks, recalling what his career has been like the past year. He was a "black ace" goaltender for the Montreal Canadiens last spring. He played 19 games for the Coyotes this season before he was traded to Minnesota.

With the Wild, he went 27-9-2 with a 1.78 goals-against average and a .936 save percentage in 39 games (38 starts), and his magical run continues in the postseason.

"This feels right," Dubnyk said. "This feels right for our group to be where we are and to continue to move forward. That's why it's easy to go out there and play and feel like we're going to win because we've done it all year as a group, and hopefully we can continue to do that."

In the other locker room, Blues players were sitting stunned.

After winning the Central Division and tying the Anaheim Ducks with 109 points atop the Western Conference, St. Louis' 2014-15 season is over. After a disappointing first-round exit, could changes be coming for the Blues, including a possible coaching change?

"We win as a team, we lose as a team," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We played hard the last three games. We lost. We lose as one. We win as one and we've done that all the time. I don't want to get into resiliency and all that stuff. Resiliency is an overused word, to be honest with you."

St. Louis couldn't figure out a way to beat Dubnyk, and in the end that's why the Blues' season is over. St. Louis' lack of finish and offense was its downfall. Unfortunately for the Blues, goaltender Jake Allen, who played well this series, allowed a pair of bad goals in Game 6, forcing Hitchcock to pull him.

"He's a young guy and he's going to gain a lot of knowledge from this," Hitchcock said. "It's not time to pile on the goalie. He's a young guy, learned a lot, and he's going to figure it out. He's going to be a good goalie."

The music continued in the Wild locker room. This is Minnesota's third consecutive trip to the postseason and second time they have advanced to the second round. Yeo said the team is not satisfied with only reaching the postseason and believes this could be the start of something special.

The Wild were on the brink of beating the Blackhawks last spring, and after defeating a tough opponent like the Blues, Minnesota has confidence moving forward.

Said Dubnyk: "We should enjoy this and realize that we deserve to win the series and take some confidence moving forward, but obviously understanding there's a pretty great hockey team waiting for us, and I'm sure there are some guys to give a little payback for last year's playoffs."