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Tuesday Update: 'We're in a playoff series now'

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

The Minnesota Wild found life in Game 3 Monday, rallying for a 5-3 win to cut the Stars’ lead in the Western Conference first round series to 2-1. Now, it’s onto Game 4 Wednesday night in St. Paul.

“I really feel like we’re in a playoff series now,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “Now we’re in a playoff series because they’ve come to play.”

The Stars dominated Game 1, winning 4-0. The Wild were better in Game 2, but the Stars squeaked out a 2-1 victory. In Game 3, the Stars grabbed an early 2-0 lead only to see the Wild storm back for a much-needed victory.

“We knew this was going to be a hard series,” Ruff said. “I said after Game 1, completely different for Game 2 and it was. Game 3 was completely different than Game 2. So I’m looking at making some adjustments and making sure Game 4 is completely different than Game 3, which is what the playoffs are. We really feel like we’re in the playoffs now.”

The Wild showed a lot of resolve Monday in overcoming an early 2-0 deficit to win. Minnesota held the Stars to just 11 shots on goal over the final 45 minutes of the game. The Stars look at it as a missed opportunity to put the Wild on the ropes.

“You’d take a 2-0 lead any day of the week. It’s a good learning experience,” said Stars center Jason Spezza. “You are going to have to learn things along the way as a team. We’ve learned things all year getting into different situations. We probably took our foot off the pedal a little too much. There are things we can do better. We have to generate more.”

And they’ll have to ramp up the desperation to match the Wild, who need a win Wednesday or they’ll go back to Dallas down 3-1 in the series. A Minnesota win and the series turns into a best-of-three.

“We want to win. It’s easy to find the desperation,” said Spezza. “We’re trying to win a series, and nobody is going to give it to you. It’s a tough league, and they are a good team. They deserved to win last game, and they got it. We deserved to win the first two games, and we got it. If you play well enough, you are going to get results.”

The Stars had the fourth-ranked power play during the regular season at 22.1 percent. It has struggled so far against the Wild, going 1-13 in the series and missing on its past eight opportunities.

“The power play, for me, is a little bit stuck between playmaking and taking shots. We’ve got to get back to attacking the net more. It’s as simple as that,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “We carried our power play around earlier in the year just by getting the attempts up. Our attempts were way up in Game 1. We went to too many seam plays and too many pretty plays. We’ve got to get more pucks to the net. Find lanes to get to the net and battle for the second opportunities.”

The Wild are 2-9 on the power play in the series.

*Stars captain Jamie Benn did not practice Tuesday. Stars coach Lindy Ruff said it was a maintenance day and that there was no need to worry.

“The fans don’t need to worry,” Ruff said. “There’s nothing to worry about.”

*Stars defenseman Kris Russell, who missed Monday’s game due to illness, practiced Tuesday. Ruff said Russell’s status for Wednesday was up in the air.

“We’ll see. He hasn’t been feeling better for a while so it might take more than just tomorrow,” Ruff said. “But he can be an option if all of the sudden he feels a lot better than he has been.”

*Ruff had no update on forward Tyler Seguin, who missed Monday’s game with an issue related to his Achilles tendon injury.

“Before the series started, we talked about the different emotions that are going to go through a playoff series. When you win a couple, you almost have this belief that you’re not going to lose. I think right now, there’s only one team that is in that category in the playoffs. So it’s how you react. It’s my job to pick it up and make some adjustments and have the guys play our game. I thought for a good period of time, I’ll just say this, I think we played not to lose, which is a recipe for losing.”

- Stars coach Lindy Ruff

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.

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