MINNEAPOLIS – The St. Louis Blues boarded their bus to the game in a humorous ensemble of shorts, Hawaiian shirts and flip-flops, lightening the mood before the coldest outdoor game in NHL history.
Jordan Kyrou and his linemates made the Winter Classic look like a day at the beach.
Kyrou had two goals and two assists in a five-goal second period, and the Blues cruised to a 6-4 win over the Minnesota Wild with a faceoff temperature of minus-5.7 degrees on Saturday night.
“It’s a nice little trick. I definitely was fully awake,” said Blues captain Ryan O'Reilly, who helped orchestrate the dress code in the player group chat.
This was the first of 33 outdoor games the league has played with a temperature below zero. The Blues got serious once they hit the ice, filling their water bottles with chicken broth and tucking hand warmers in their pads to help against the cold.
“It was important to have energy and emotion in the game,” coach Craig Berube said. “When you’re playing in that kind of extreme weather, you’ve got to dig in.”
David Perron got the Blues on the board in the first period. Vladimir Tarasenko, Ivan Barbashev and Torey Krug joined Kyrou by scoring in the second, and Robert Thomas pitched in with two assists. Jordan Binnington made 29 saves for the Blues, who are 11-1-2 in their last 14 games against the rival Wild.
“It was a crazy show, and I think it’s something we’ll always remember,” Binnington said.
Kirill Kaprizov had a goal and two assists for the Wild, who trailed 6-2 at the second intermission and pulled goalie Cam Talbot after 22 saves in two periods in favor of Kaapo Kahkonen. Talbot had a lower-body injury, coach Dean Evason said.
Rem Pitlick, Ryan Hartman and Kevin Fiala also scored for the Wild, who pulled within 6-4 on Fiala's 6-on-5 goal with 5:38 remaining after Kahkonen was pulled for the extra skater, but they were in too big of a hole.
“It’s cold for both teams. The ice is bouncy for both teams. They just outplayed us for 40 minutes, easy. We didn’t play smart hockey like we’ve been doing most of the time this year,” right wing Mats Zuccarello said.
Talbot, who posted an outdoor shutout for Edmonton in the Heritage Classic in 2016, wore a forest green stocking cap on top of his mask to match Minnesota’s jerseys. He didn't have much help. The Wild were missing their two best defensemen, 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.
“They’re a team that likes to make plays, 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 on other teams, the Wild had four games postponed over the last three weeks and had not played in 12 days. They have allowed 22 goals in their last four games.
“It’s hard to reflect now, obviously, but I think once we look back on it it’ll be an exciting experience,” Evason said. "Just ended a little bit bitter, that’s all.”
The Blues were the sharper team, having beaten Edmonton 4-2 on Wednesday behind a goal and two assists from Kyrou in his return from a four-game absence due to an upper-body injury.
Perron deposited a rebound past Talbot's blocker with 5:31 left in the first period after O'Reilly's shot deflected off Wild defenseman Jon Merrill's skate.
Kaprizov tied the game 25 seconds later by banking the puck off Blues defenseman Niko Mikkola's skate, but Kyrou put St. Louis in front for good 27 seconds into the second period on yet another bad-bounce goal that glanced off Hartman. Kyrou's four points are the most in 13 editions of the Winter Classic, the main outdoor event the NHL made for TV on New Year's Day.
Pitlick added to the highlight reel with his behind-the-net shot that clinked off the side of Binnington's mask to cut the lead to 5-2 late in the second period.
DRESSED FOR SUCCESS
The Blues also considered lumberjack outfits for their arrival wear, which Binnington had already purchased 30 shirts for, but the beach look won out. Defenseman Marco Scandella even carried a cooler in one hand with a cup of coffee in the other, his white shirt fully unbuttoned.
“We just figured when we’re 50 years old looking back, do we want to see us getting off the bus in a suit or something funny like that?” Binnington said.
Binnington was called for tripping in the first period and has 14 penalty minutes this season, the most in the league for any goalie. The Blues killed off that penalty and three more, and they've allowed only one goal in their last 24 penalty kills since Dec. 4.
TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALLGAME
The Wild had played outdoors once before, in a Stadium Series game in 2016 at the University of Minnesota’s football stadium. The Blues won the Winter Classic in 2017 at Busch Stadium, the home of Major League Baseball’s St. Louis Cardinals.
This was the 11th time in the 33 outdoor games — and seventh time in the 13 Winter Classics — that the NHL played at a baseball venue. The announced attendance was a sellout of 38,619.
The Blues play at Pittsburgh on Wednesday.
The Wild play at Boston on Thursday.
More AP NHL coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL