All business on memory lane for Blues’ Faulk

Justin Faulk saw the reminders of 11 years ago throughout Xcel Energy Center, the custom posters pointing out key events in the arena’s history. One of those moments was the 2011 NCAA Frozen Four, when the defenseman from South St. Paul helped Minnesota Duluth win its first men’s hockey national championship.

“It looks like every Frozen Four that’s been in here, a Minnesota team’s won it,” Faulk said, referring to the Bulldogs’ first crown, their follow-up title in 2018 and the Gophers’ 2002 championship. “… So yeah, you think about it. But that’s not what I’m here for.”

Faulk is here on what he calls a business trip with the St. Louis Blues, who are playing the Wild in the first round of the NHL playoffs. Business was good in Game 1 on Monday night for the Blues, who blanked Minnesota 4-0, and Faulk, who had an assist and played a strong all-around game.

In Wednesday’s Game 2, however, Faulk had a difficult night, taking a pair of first-period penalties that the Wild cashed in for two power-play goals in a 6-2 victory in St. Paul that evened the series at a game apiece.

Faulk led the Blues with 26 minutes, 39 seconds of ice time and a game-high seven hits. Both of his penalties came when he was engaged in battle with Wild star Kirill Kaprizov, the NHL’s fifth-leading scorer (108 points) and fifth-leading goal-scorer (47) in the regular season.

First, with the Wild up 1-0 on Joel Eriksson Ek’s goal on Minnesota’s first shot of the game, Faulk high-sticked Kaprizov. Fredrick Gaudreau’s power-play goal at 13:04 boosted the Wild’s lead to 2-0.

Faulk nearly halved the lead with the Blues on a power play at 16:22, but Wild goalie Marc-Andre Fleury smothered Faulk’s slapshot from the point.

Less than two minutes later, Faulk returned to the box after slashing Kaprizov. The Wild’s leading scorer extended the lead to 3-0 with a tap-in power-play goal at 19:06.

“He’s speedy, shifty and has a good shot,” Blues defenseman Colton Parayko said of Kaprizov, who added two goals in the third period to complete a hat trick. “He’s opportunistic. He puts the puck in the back of the net when you give him the chance. He’s had some chances.”

Said Blues coach Craig Berube: “They went to the net hard and got a couple of PP goals just being around the net. We’ve got to do a better job there.”

Entering the series, Berube expressed confidence in defensive pairing of Faulk and Torey Krug. On Monday, both were solid. On Wednesday, the Wild responded.

Now Berube might have to rely on the duo even more. The Blues played without defenseman Nick Leddy, the former Gopher from Eden Prairie who suffered what appeared to be an upper-body injury on a hit from Wild forward Matt Boldy in Game 1.

On Wednesday, defenseman Robert Bortuzzo played only 4:53, leaving the game in the first period after taking an Eriksson Ek slapshot to his head. His status for Friday’s Game 3 in St. Louis is uncertain, as is Leddy’s and that of former Wild defenseman Marco Scandella, who has missed the first two games of the series.

“I thought our ‘D’ played pretty well. They battled,” Berube said. “We went down to five ‘D’ pretty early. They competed hard.”