Jordan Kyrou and his teammates made the Winter Classic a day at the beach.
Kyrou had two goals and two assists in a five-goal second period, and the Blues clinched a 6-4 victory over the Minnesota Wild with a minus -5.7 degree face-off temperature on Saturday night.
“It’s a cool little thing. I was definitely wide awake, ”said Blues captain Ryan O’Reilly, who helped orchestrate the dress code in the player group chat.
It was the first of 33 outdoor games the league has played in a subzero temperature. The Blues got serious once they hit the ice, filling their water bottles with chicken broth and putting hand warmers in their pads to help with the cold.
“It was important to have energy and emotion in the game,” said coach Craig Berube. “When you play in those kinds of extreme weather conditions, you have to dig. “
David Perron put the Blues on the board in the first period. Vladimir Tarasenko, Ivan Barbashev and Torey Krug joined Kyrou in scoring in the second, and Robert Thomas started with two assists. Jordan Binnington made 29 saves for the Blues, who are 11-1-2 in their last 14 games against rival Wild.
“It was a crazy show, and I think it’s something we will always remember,” Binnington said.
Kirill Kaprizov had one goal and two assists for the Wild, who trailed 6-2 in the second intermission and retired goaltender Cam Talbot after 22 saves in two periods in favor of Kaapo Kahkonen. Talbot suffered a lower body injury, coach Dean Evason said.
Rem Pitlick, Ryan Hartman and Kevin Fiala also scored for the Wild, who shot 6-4 on Fiala’s 6-on-5 goal with 5:38 left after Kahkonen was pulled out for the extra skater, but they were in too big a hole.
“It’s cold for both teams. The ice is bouncy for both teams. They outperformed us for 40 minutes, it’s easy. We haven’t played smart hockey like we have been doing most of the time this year, ”said right wing Mats Zuccarello.
Talbot, who recorded an away shutout for Edmonton at the Heritage Classic in 2016, wore a forest green sock cap over his mask to match the Minnesota jerseys. He didn’t have much help. The Wild missed their top two defenders, captain Jared Spurgeon (lower body injury) and Jonas Brodin (COVID-19 protocols), and allowed 14 shots on goal in each of the first two periods.
“It’s a team that likes to play, and obviously the ice is not the best. We kind of tried to capitalize on their mistakes, and that’s how we got our chances, ”Kyrou said.
Due to virus outbreaks at other teams, the Wild have postponed four games in the past three weeks and haven’t played for 12 days. They have allowed 22 goals in their last four games.
“It’s hard to think about now, obviously, but I think once we get back to it, it will be an exciting experience,” said Evason. “I just ended up a little bitter, that’s all.”
The Blues were the strongest team, having beaten Edmonton 4-2 Wednesday behind one goal and two assists from Kyrou upon returning from a four-game absence with an upper-body injury.
Perron rebounded against the Talbot blocker with 5:31 left in the first period after O’Reilly’s shot deflected Wild defenseman Jon Merrill’s skate.
Kaprizov tied it 25 seconds later by knocking the puck off the skate of Blues defenseman Niko Mikkola, but Kyrou gave St. Louis the lead for a solid 27 seconds in the second period on another rebound goal that took hit Hartman. Kyrou’s four points are the highest in 13 editions of the Winter Classic, the premier outdoor event hosted by the NHL for television on New Years Day.
Pitlick added to the highlights with his shot from behind the net that slammed to the side of Binnington’s mask to reduce the lead to 5-2 at the end of the second period.
DRESSED FOR SUCCESS
The Blues also considered lumberjack outfits for their finish clothes, for which Binnington had already bought 30 shirts, but the beach look won. Defender Marco Scandella even carried a cooler in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other, his white shirt fully unbuttoned.
“We just thought that when we’re 50 looking back, do we want to see ourselves get off the bus in costumes or something funny like that?” Binnington said.
TO KILL HIM
Binnington was called up for tripping in the first period and was sentenced to 14 penalty minutes this season, the most goaltenders in the league. The Blues knocked out that penalty and three others, and they’ve allowed just one goal in their last 24 shots on goal since December 4.
TAKE ME TO THE BALL GAME
The Wild had played away once before, in a 2016 Stadium Series game at the University of Minnesota football stadium. The Blues won the 2017 Winter Classic at Busch Stadium, home of the St. Louis Cardinals of Major League Baseball.
It was the 11th time of 33 outdoor games – and the seventh time of 13 Winter Classics – that the NHL has played at a baseball venue. The announced participation was 38,619 spectators.
The Blues play in Pittsburgh on Wednesday.
The Wild will play in Boston on Thursday.