Mikko Koivu (Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images)
The Minnesota Wild are on the board in their series against the Dallas Stars. The Wild fell behind early, but notched four of their own before the Stars answered back. It wasn’t pretty for Minnesota, but it was effective.
Through the first two games of the first-round series against the Stars, the Wild had scored only managed one goal against a Dallas defense that had been mediocre all season and masked by the offensive power of the Stars. But Minnesota’s offense finally found its legs Monday, drawing one game closer to evening the series with a 5-3 victory.
The Wild couldn’t have found the back of the net at a better time, either, because in the early stages of Game 3 it appeared it was going to be a long night for the Xcel Energy Center faithful. Minnesota came out flat in their first home game of the series and watched as Patrick Sharp scored two goals in the first 4:10 of play to give the Stars an early 2-0 lead. The Wild slowly began to piece it together as the period wore on and were finally rewarded with 50 seconds remaining in the period. Chris Porter scored Minnesota’s second goal of the series to cut the Stars lead in half, and while it wasn’t exactly the floodgates opening, Porter’s goal helped the Wild break through.
Six minutes into the second frame, Erik Haula, playing his second game since returning from a lower-body injury, scored on a clever deflection while driving the net to even the score. Haula’s goal would be followed by yet another late-period Wild goal, this one coming off the stick of Jason Pominville with 47 seconds remaining in the frame to give Minnesota their first lead of the series.
The Wild continued to press in the third and capitalized six and a half minutes into the third frame to push the lead to two goals as Koivu corralled a loose puck in front of the net and shovelled it past Stars netminder Kari Lehtonen.
Koivu’s goal would stand as the game-winning marker, but not before the Wild got a scare. Colton Sceviour scored on a crazy bounce to pull the Stars within one. It wouldn’t be enough, however, as Pominville added an empty-net goal with 1:14 remaining, his second tally of the contest. Pominville’s insurance goal marked the first time he managed a two-goal playoff game since April 2006 in a first-round series against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Even if the most important thing for the Wild was to actually find some offense and snap what was a seven-game losing streak dating back to the regular season, it was equally as important they find a way to dominate and control play. If Minnesota is to win the series, their biggest targets have to be the defense and goaltending of Dallas and Game 3 was the first time the Wild solved either.
Minnesota dominated the possession game, outshot Dallas for the first time all series and were able to turn the Stars’ defensemen around and create havoc on the forecheck. That’s how Minnesota is going to win this series, and it might not be pretty. Nothing the Wild did in Game 3 was picturesque, but Minnesota grinded out their first win of the series. Getting three more wins might take more of the same.