Although the Minnesota Wild made the Stanley Cup Playoffs for a fourth consecutive year, a hot start to the regular season didn't translate down the stretch. After a coaching change in mid-February sparked the Wild for a time, they entered the playoffs on a five-game losing streak.
The Wild ended their skid at seven with a win in Game 3 against the Dallas Stars and was competitive with the Western Conference's top seed throughout the series. A furious comeback from a four-goal deficit in the third period came up short in Game 6 and the Wild lost 5-4 at Xcel Energy Center.
Here are five reasons the Wild were eliminated:
1. Slow start -- The Wild went toe-to-toe with the top-seeded Stars in Games 2-6 but were badly overmatched in Game 1.
Minnesota was outshot 14-2 in the first period of Game 1 but held it together enough to keep it scoreless. That effort proved futile the rest of the way when the Stars' speed and skill forced the Wild into turnovers and penalties. Dallas capitalized, scoring twice in the second and two more times in the third.
Meanwhile, the Wild got nothing going offensively in a 4-0 loss. Other than Minnesota's 5-3 win in Game 3, which came with an empty-net goal, it was the only game in the series decided by more than one goal.
Video: Torchetti Postgame Press Conference
2. No Parise -- Wild forward Zach Parise seemed to find his game down the stretch, scoring six goals and five assists over his final eight games.
Parise missed a practice and the regular-season finale against Calgary before it was revealed that he had been playing with a back injury for several weeks, one that might require offseason microdiscectomy surgery. Parise hoped several days of physical therapy would help enough so he could parachute in mid-series, but the Wild's leading goal scorer was never able to get right.
"He's our No. 1 battler, for one. He's the type of guy that we need," Wild interim coach John Torchetti said.
3. Missed opportunities -- Minnesota did a lot of things well in the series but wasn't able to put it all together for a complete game.
Everything went awry in its 4-0 loss in Game 1.
It was the missed scoring chances in a Game 2 loss.
The Wild led twice in Game 4 but its stingy penalty kill, which allowed one goal on 13 power plays in the first three games, allowed goals on the only two man-advantage opportunities Dallas received.
Dallas jumped out to a 4-0 lead in Game 6 before Minnesota stormed back with four in the third period. But in the midst of the comeback, a fluky goal by Stars defenseman Alex Goligoski ended up being the game-winner.
Even in victory, the Wild didn't make things easy on themselves.
Minnesota fell behind 2-0 in the opening five minutes of a 5-3 win in Game 3. The Wild got out to a 2-0 lead in the first few minutes of Game 5 in Dallas before watching the Stars slowly chip away, eventually taking a lead in the third period.
Only a late goal by Mikko Koivu and then an overtime-winner salvaged a victory.
Video: MIN@DAL, Gm5: Koivu scores twice, including OT winner
4. No Vanek -- There's no denying Thomas Vanek had a disappointing regular season. From an offensive standpoint, Vanek had his worst statistical season in his 11-year NHL career.
But there's also no denying that Vanek could have helped an offensively-starved Wild team against the high-powered Stars.
Vanek was cross-checked in the ribs while battling in front of the net in a game against the Chicago Blackhawks on March 29. He missed four of the final five games in the regular season and all six games against the Stars because of an upper-body injury.
Despite a sub-par season, no Wild player had more points in five regular-season games against the Stars than Vanek's five.
"It's tough. Any time you're injured and you have to watch games it's tough," Vanek said. "This one [stinks] for me because usually I feel like I'm pretty good playing with pain. But this one just needs time, and that's what the worst part about it is."
5. Man of steal (or not) -- This time of year, it's the teams with the best goaltending that typically advance, and Devan Dubnyk was unable to steal a game (or two) in the series.
Dubnyk can't be blamed for the total team meltdown in Game 1 or the fluke goal against in Game 2. He should also get a pass for how Dallas scored all three of its goals in Game 4 (two deflections and a heavy screen).
But in the playoffs a save percentage of .877 while allowing 3.34 goals per game isn't going to get it done, especially against a team with as much firepower as the Stars.