Following Wild games, Content Coordinator Evan Sporer will give the Five Takeaways that he remembers from the contest. Tonight, he looks back at the Wild's 4-0 loss against the Dallas Stars in Game 1 of its first round Western Conference Stanley Cup Playoff Series at American Airlines Center.
There was a way the Wild felt it had to play to be effective and successful heading into this series.
Tight-checking, crisp in the neutral zone, and spending some quality time in Dallas' end, forcing the highest-scoring team in the NHL to defend.
Sixty minutes later, the Wild didn't hit enough items on its checklist to come out on top in Game 1.
The puck-possession didn't pass the eye test or from a numbers perspective. Just looking at the sheer number of shots on goal will tell you the Stars had control of the puck far more than the Wild.
Turnovers cost the Wild on the scoreboard: One in the neutral zone led to Dallas' first goal. The Stars' second goal came when they were able to get out on the races in transition, and the Wild lost contain on the flank.
"Three of their goals we had it on our stick, and it ended up in our net," Jarret Stoll said. "The first one was my bad, and then the other two, we had the puck probably 10 or 15 seconds before the goal. That can't happen, and we'll be better that way."
It's something interim Head Coach John Torchetti had identified as a problem-area toward the end of the regular season, and something that again created self-inflicted damage for the Wild come the start of the playoffs.
"It's frustrating. It's the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and that's how you have to play the game," he said. "Three of the goals we had the puck, and that's the bottom line. We have to make sure we manage the puck a whole lot better."
One of the other things the Wild talked about, and said it has learned from its recent postseason experiences, is not to let anything influence its mood too much. That's one game, and one the Wild will want to improve on come Saturday, but one the Wild knows it will need to have a short memory of when preparing to attempt to tie this series before it shifts to Minnesota.
"The most important thing is we have to understand that we can play with these guys; we can beat these guys," Devan Dubnyk said. "There's no reason to think otherwise. We're going to have to be better than we were tonight, for sure, but if there's anybody in here that thinks we can't beat them, they shouldn't."
Dubnyk was the Wild's best player on Thursday, and kept Minnesota close enough on the scoreboard that a comeback was feasible.
Good goaltending is paramount to postseason success, and Dubnyk started out this series putting his best skate forward, making 14 saves in the first period.
Though he stopped six-of-eight in the second period, both goals left little for the Wild's netminder to do. Of the other six shots, some of them were quite difficult, with extending his left pad across the grain to kick out a John Klingberg redirection off a centering feed, and a lunging shoulder save to keep out an Antoine Roussel shot on a breakaway in the closing seconds of the second period.
Dubnyk's most lump-in-throat inducing sequence came with about nine minutes remaining in the second period, when he dove out of his crease, arm and goal stick extending, using every inch of his 6-foot-5 reach to poke the puck off Ales Hemsky's stick.
The Wild knew it was going to need a stellar performance from its goaltender, and knows it will continue to need Dubnyk to be a rock. In Game 1, he was its best player.
Though Torchetti wanted the Wild to limit its turnovers between the blue line, and not stick-handle when exiting its own zone, Minnesota flipped countless pucks into Dallas' end.
The result was a lack of puck possession. It was a dump-and-chase game that lacked a 'chase' that produced time on the puck for Minnesota.
Though Torchetti wants the Wild to be responsible, it wasn't establishing enough of a forecheck to retrieve pucks and spend significant time near Dallas' goal.
There were shifts when the Wild was able to cycle the puck around the zone, sniff out some scoring chances, and create a tangible threat. But those seemed like one-offs, with the following shift played in Minnesota's end, or simply not in Dallas'.
"I don't think we had too many shifts where we had sustained pressure for a length of time," Jarret Stoll said. "There were two or three that I can remember, and that's not enough."
When the Stars stood up in the neutral zone on Minnesota, there were times the Wild would have been better of getting pucks deep. Some of those sequences ended in turnovers that proved costly.
"If you want to be on offense, you have to put pucks behind them," Torchetti said. "They're going to stay gapped up in the neutral zone on us. We want to make sure we're chipping it. The first goal is a neutral zone play. They're gapped up, let's put it behind them, and let's get to work."
Up against what Dallas has offensively, the Wild said time and time again over the past four days it needs to, if not keep play at five-on-five, stay out of the penalty box.
But in the first 16:20 of the game on Thursday, the Wild found itself shorthanded. Minnesota took six minor penalties in all in Game 1, a number Torchetti and co. will surely want to shrink.
"You can't do that; you're not getting the flow," Torchetti said. "You have probably five forwards that didn't even skate (during those three penalty kills). We have to be disciplined. We can't be giving them opportunities when we don't need to."
To the Wild's credit, it was strong on its PK until the end of the game. It wasn't so long ago the Wild's penalty kill seemed gain to any man-advantage against. Toward the end of the regular season that hadn't been the case, but the Wild's penalty kill did a lot of things well, and got through 9:56 of what could have been 10 minutes of penalty killing unscathed, burned with four seconds remaining on its fifth penalty.
The very first PK in the first period started with a defensive-zone faceoff win for Stollf. The Wild sailed the puck 200 feet down the ice, Stoll hopped over the boards for a line change, and the Wild went to work, spacing the neutral zone such that the Stars couldn't enter the zone with ease.
And that worked, as Dallas dumped a puck deep, Dubnyk went behind his crease to corral it, and lofted the puck up the boards, in short order leading to a clear.
On other power plays, the Wild did a good job of keeping Dallas primarily to the outside, and also not letting it clog the middle down-low, permitting Dubnyk to get pretty good sightlines. He took a few shots right in the logo or stomach, a good indication of how he was able to track those attempts.
It was certainly a playing-with-fire situation for the Wild, putting the NHL's third-best power play on the ice that many times, and eventually, it got burned. The Wild will want to play aggressive in this series, but not in a manner that puts it shorthanded.
The chess match began from puck drop Thursday night, with grandmasters Torchetti and Lindy Ruff going move-for-move.
There were questions entering the series as to how the Wild would attempt to match up against the Stars top line. Without forward Erik Haula, and without last change at American Airlines Center, Torchetti said the Wild would learn quickly how Dallas wanted the head-to-head to play out.
So when Torchetti submitted his lineup first, putting out the line of Mikko Koivu, Charlie Coyle, and Jason Zucker, Ruff countered with his Radek Faska line, and not the Jamie Benn line.
The back-and-forth continued from there, but overall, Koivu spent the most even-strength minutes against Benn among the Wild's forwards, along with Ryan Suter and Jared Spurgeon defensively.
The Stars will add another key piece to its board on Saturday in Game 2 with the return of Tyler Seguin, while the Wild awaits the status of Haula, who skated on Thursday for the second consecutive day, recovering from a lower-body injury.
Those matchups though are another game inside-of-the-game, and ones that have an influence on play.