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Wild aim to keep momentum going in Game 4

Look to even series with Stars after rallying for first win

by Dan Myers / NHL.com Correspondent

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Minnesota Wild forward Mikko Koivu is not prone to spontaneous outbursts of emotion.

That's why his celebration after scoring what proved to be the game-winning goal against the Dallas Stars in a 5-3 win in Game 3 of their Western Conference First Round series on Monday surprised many, but perhaps none more than those sitting in the front row behind the Stars' net.

Koivu's goal with 13:34 left in the third period was the fourth straight scored by the Wild in a comeback win against the Stars, who came to Xcel Energy Center leading 2-0 in the series and took a quick 2-0 lead in Game 3. It produced a rare public display of emotion from the usually stoic and serious captain.

Koivu poked the puck through the legs of Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen, then bolted towards the boards and leaped into the glass in celebration. Two fans sitting in the front row had rested their beers atop the dasher, only to have them go flying once Koivu came crashing in.

Video: DAL@MIN, Gm3: Koivu nets rebound for power-play goal

"I owe them two beers," Koivu said Tuesday, cracking a smile.

Dallas leads the best-of-7 series 2-1. Game 4 is at Xcel Energy Center on Wednesday (9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN360, TVA Sports 3, FS-SW, FS-N, FS-WI).

After quickly falling behind 2-0 in Game 3, the turn of events was rather unexpected.

Fans were in their seats long before the opening faceoff and the sellout crowd was buzzing at puck drop, but Patrick Sharp's goal 26 seconds into the game took a lot of air out of the 19,038 fans. When Sharp scored again less than four minutes later, it appeared Minnesota's season was on life support.

But Chris Porter's goal late in the first period turned things around. Erik Haula and Jason Pominville scored in the second before Koivu's power-play goal gave the Wild a 4-2 lead in the third.

Video: DAL@MIN, Gm3: Pominville follows play, jams home puck

Emotional displays followed each goal, and the arena seemed to get louder each time the Wild put the puck in the net.

"If you're not getting excited for these ones, you better not play hockey," Koivu said. "It was pure joy and excitement and everything about it."

The stakes seemed to be the catalyst for the big celebrations. With their season essentially on the line and having lost seven consecutive games entering Game 3, Minnesota was finally able to celebrate something.

The key will be finding a way to carry it over.

"It's playoffs. We know every goal is a big one, especially last night, we needed that win," forward Mikael Granlund said. "Obviously there's a lot of emotions and that's good for us. We gotta keep doing that."

"We've got to bring the energy from last night to [Wednesday] but have a better start. Be focused on the walls. You know they're going to come out just like we were, we were hungry for a win," coach John Torchetti said. "I'm sure they're going to want to bounce back and try to get on top of us fast too with a forecheck and try to create turnovers like they did in the first five minutes. We better be prepared and focused and ready to answer their storm and come back with ours."

Minnesota also became physically engaged in the series. Torchetti has preached a checking game for weeks and, for the first time in a long time, got exactly what he was looking for.

"I loved that. That's hockey," Torchetti said. "We need more of it, and that's the bottom line."

Forward Zach Parise skated on his own before an optional practice Tuesday. Parise has missed four consecutive games because of a back injury but appears no closer to rejoining the lineup.

Forward Thomas Vanek also skated during the optional portion of practice but still needs a couple of practices, including contact drills, to get back into game shape.

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