Just when it looked like the Dallas Stars were on their way to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Minnesota captain Mikko Koivu scored two goals to force a Game 6. Koivu scored with 3:09 remaining in regulation to tie the game and then struck again 4:55 into overtime as the Wild defeated the Stars, 5-4, at American Airlines Center.
“We knew they were going to bring a strong effort. Their lives were on the line,” said Stars captain Jamie Benn. “It was a tough one to lose.”
The Stars, who lead the series 3-2, will now head to Minnesota for a sixth game, which will be played at 2 p.m. Sunday afternoon and broadcast nationally on NBC.
“It’s a seven-game series, and there are a lot of momentum swings. We have to be happy where we are and disappointed that we lost the game,” said Stars center Jason Spezza. “We have a chance to close it out again next game. We’re in a good position. Get some rest tonight and tomorrow and we’ll be ready to go.”
The Stars overcame 2-0 and 3-2 deficits in the game, taking a 4-3 lead in the third period when Spezza and Alex Goligoski scored goals 28 seconds apart. But Koivu tied the game at the 16:51 mark of the third period when he got open in the slot and banged home a centering pass from Mikael Granlund.
“I saw a little lane there, and he was open, and Mikko had a great shot there,” Granlund said. “It was a huge goal for us to get to the overtime.”
Goligoski came close to winning the game early in the overtime, but his bid from the left circle was turned away by Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk. Koivu notched the game-winner when he deflected a Ryan Suter shot from the point past Stars goaltender Antti Niemi.
“I think it got tipped down,” Niemi said. “I tried to be compact, but it just went through.”
“It’s always nice to score. You’re always trying to do that. It’s more important in the bigger picture how you play individually and as a team,” Koivu said. “We’re doing a lot of good things. We’ve been playing better as the series goes on here, and that’s a good sign. We still have steps to go, and we want to improve our team.”
The Stars outshot the Wild 41-24 and had a 93-47 advantage in shot attempts, but mistakes proved costly.
“I loved the way our team competed. We had ninety-plus attempts and skated as good as we skated,” Ruff said. “Not once was there any quit in them and they kept coming back, and we got the lead. In the third period, we didn't make a lot of mistakes, but we made one with about three minutes left that hurt us.”
The Wild scored two goals in a 1:44 span early in the first period to take a 2-0 lead. After a Goligoski turnover, Granlund scored off a scramble in front of Niemi at the 3:32 mark.
“It was a tough play by me, obviously, on the first goal,” Goligoski said. “You would like to jump on them at home. That kind of takes the wind out of your sails. We can’t have mistakes like that.”
Jordan Schroeder scored off the rebound of a Ryan Suter shot at the 5:16 mark and the Wild had a two-goal lead.
The Stars had the game’s first power play, including 1:46 of four-on-three time, put four shots on net, but couldn’t cut into the Wild lead.
The Stars pulled to within one goal with 2:42 left in the first. After Ales Hemsky won a race to the puck and drove the net, the puck went to Stars defenseman Johnny Oduya, who scored off a blast from the left point and it was a 2-1 game heading into the first intermission.
After a scoreless second period, the Stars tied the game at the 1:00 mark of the third. After stopping a Minnesota clearing attempt, Stars defenseman John Klingberg set up a wide-open Benn, who slipped the puck by Dubnyk.
But the Wild were back on top 50 seconds later when Jared Spurgeon set up Nino Niederreiter, who got behind the Dallas defense and scored on a partial breakaway.
The Stars took the lead when Spezza and Goligoski scored goals 28 seconds apart. Spezza tied the game at the 8:28 mark, coming out from behind the Minnesota net and scoring from the left circle. Goligoski scored off a shot from the point that bounced off two Minnesota defenders before going into the net and the Stars had a 4-3 lead.
But the Wild rallied behind Koivu, and now the series shifts back to Minnesota for Game 6.
“We were up, they were up, and everything happened so quickly,” said Granlund. “I’m just really glad we got the win and we get to go back home next game.”
“Once again, we know what to expect out of them,” said Benn. “They might even be more ramped up because it’s in their building in front of their fans. We have to bounce back, and it’s a whole new game. We’ll be ready.”
*The Stars outshot the Wild 41-24 and had a 93-47 advantage in attempted shots.
*Jamie Benn led the Stars with 7 shots on goal and 12 shot attempts.
*The Stars had an eight-game home winning streak snapped.
*The Stars were 0-2 on the power play. Minnesota did not have a power play in the game.
*The Stars won 44 of 77 faceoffs (57 percent).
*Cody Eakin won 17 of 25 faceoffs (68 percent). Radek Faksa won 15 of 23 (65 percent). Jason Spezza won 8 of 16 (50 percent).
*John Klingberg led the Stars with 26:21 of ice time.
*Ryan Suter led the Wild with 32:40 of ice time and was a plus-4 in the game.
The series now heads back to Minnesota for Game 6, which will be Sunday at 2 p.m. The game will be televised exclusively on NBC.
Jamie Benn – Cody Eakin – Patrick Eaves
Mattias Janmark – Jason Spezza – Patrick Sharp
Antoine Roussel – Radek Faksa – Ales Hemsky
Valeri Nichushkin – Vernon Fiddler – Colton Sceviour
Alex Goligoski – John Klingberg
Johnny Oduya – Stephen Johns
Kris Russell – Jason Demers
Injured: Tyler Seguin (lower body)
Scratched: Travis Moen, Jordie Benn, Jamie Oleksiak, Patrik Nemeth
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 DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.