Minnesota fell 5-1 in Game 6 of its first-round Stanley Cup playoff series against host St. Louis on Thursday, dropping the best-of-seven 4-2. The Blues advance for the first time since 2019, when they won the franchise's first-ever Stanley Cup. They will face the Western Conference's No. 1 seed Colorado Avalanche in the second round.
The Wild have not advanced in the playoffs since 2014-15, losing in the first round each of the past five times they qualified.
Minnesota had been in control of this series at first, holding a 2-1 lead over St. Louis after Game 3. The Wild went on to lose the next three games by a combined score of 15-5.
To try staving off elimination, Wild coach Dean Evason turned from Marc-Andre Fleury to Cam Talbot in net for Game 6. Fleury, who was acquired by Minnesota at the trade deadline, played well early on, but the reigning Vezina Trophy winner was particularly leaky in Game 4 and Game 5 (.875 SV%, 4.10 GAA).
Talbot hadn't recorded a regular-season loss since March 1 but was still seated behind Fleury to start the playoffs. Thursday marked Talbot's first game action since April 28.
St. Louis took advantage and challenged Talbot out of the gate. Nick Leddy put the Blues up 1-0 in the first and St. Louis piled on in the second with Ryan O'Reilly, Tyler Bozak and Vladimir Tarasenko scoring in a span of just over nine minutes.
"It was a tough, tough battle,'' Bozak said. "That's a very good team over there. It's kind of a shame we played in the first round of the playoffs. It was two of the top teams in the West and they deserve a lot of credit for the season they had.''
Talbot finished with 22 saves and an .846 SV%.
"This is one of the most special groups I've been a part of,'' Talbot said. "We're really building something here. So, as much as this hurts right now, I'm proud of the guys, proud of the way we battled all season long.''
If Minnesota waited too long to orchestrate its goalie change, St. Louis certainly did not. When the Wild took its 2-1 lead, Blues' coach Craig Berube made the switch from Ville Husso to Jordan Binnington in the crease. Binnington had not won a postseason start (0-9) since St. Louis clinched the Cup in 2019, but his 28-save performance helped secure the Blues' Game 4 win and gave the team new life.
"It's just his demeanor, you know, he loves this kind of stuff,'' Berube said.
Binnington turned aside 25 shots in Game 6 and allowed only five goals in three games to push the Blues on to the next round.
"We had a good first period and kind of weathered the storm,'' Binnington said. "They came out hard and they were playing desperate and I think we matched that and then we came out in the second period and played really hard.''
As Binnington continuously slammed the door, Minnesota's offense just kept drying up. Outside of Kirill Kaprizov -- who registered a team-leading 7 goals and 8 points in the series -- and Joel Eriksson Ek (three goals, five points), few of the Wild's other forwards had much impact. St. Louis generated far more balanced scoring, with multiple players scoring three of more goals in the series.
"There are a lot of emotions coming home and the building was electric and, yeah, everybody was kind of caught watching a bit and obviously Binner did an amazing job of shutting the door there early and then Ledds makes a great play and a great goal,'' O'Reilly said. "That just kind of helped us kind of settle down and start you know, building our game.''
The Associated Press contributed to this report.