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 5-4 overtime win against the Dallas Stars in Game 5 of its first round Western Conference Stanley Cup Playoff Series at American Airlines Center.
They were dead.
And then they weren’t.
The anatomy of the third period of Game 5 on Friday was that of a roller coaster mixed in with an episode of cardiac arrest with a side of spelunking.
“It’s fun,” interim Head Coach John Torchetti said.
In a sick way, it is.
The Minnesota Wild was done. Trailing 4-3 late in the third period, not generating much in the way of any offense, and a loss away from its season ending, the Wild was finished.
It came on the heels of a one-goal lead to begin the period, followed 60 seconds later by a tying Stars goal, followed 50 seconds later by the Wild retaking the lead, followed 6:38 later by a Stars tying goal, and then 28 seconds later by the Stars grabbing their first lead of the night.
But as Mikko Koivu proved, it only takes a second and a shot to completely turn things on their head.
Koivu scored with 189 seconds separating the Wild from its offseason, a goal befitting of the Wild captain and how he’s upped the ante in this first round series. Koivu scored the winner in Game 3, arguably the Wild’s biggest goal of the season until he chipped home a Mikael Granlund centering feed late in the third period on Friday.
And then in overtime, when sudden death quite literally meant a goal-against was the end for Minnesota, Koivu did it again, deflecting home a Ryan Suter shot for the game-winner.
“A lot of emotions,” Suter said. “The whole series has been ups and downs, and that’s what playoffs are.”
The emotional spectrum was broad, and then some.
“Those are big,” Koivu said.
Back to Saint Paul they go for a Game 6 on Sunday.
After waiting in the wings for the first four games of this series, forward Jordan Schroeder hopped onto a different wing, to the right of Jason Zucker and Charlie Coyle, and immediately made an impact.
Though it was Schroeder’s skating ability that was talked about this morning, with the Wild controlling the puck in the zone, Schroeder went toward the front of the net and cashed in on a rebound to make it 2-0 Wild.
Amid a sustained shift in Dallas’ end by the Wild’s fourth line, Minnesota was able to change out two of the three forwards.
After Schroeder hopped over the boards, he went right toward the front of the net, planting himself on Johnny Oduya’s hip. A Suter shot from the half wall created a rebound in front, and Schroeder spun off the defenseman, and lifted the puck over Antti Niemi.
Schroeder was also effective in other ways. He used his speed to get in on the forecheck and disrupt the Stars cadence. At one point, he raced down the ice to negate an icing, swooped below the goal line and up the boards to win possession for Minnesota, and allowed his line to get a chance at creating something.
The Wild’s discipline equaled that which it displayed in Game 4, only, this time, its trips to the penalty box did not prove to be its Achilles heel.
Minnesota didn’t play a particularly undisciplined game on Wednesday, committing two minor penalties, but the Stars turned each of those man-advantage opportunities into goals. On Friday, the Wild was game when the Stars potent power play came knocking again, coming up with four big minutes of penalty killing to keep Dallas off the scoreboard.
One of those power plays was primarily a 4-on-3, and with the skill Dallas has and the open ice that it was afforded, Devan Dubnyk came up with a few big saves to keep the Stars at bay.
Possibly most impressive was when he slid across his crease to meet a Jason Spezza one-timer, and swallowed the shot, forcing a stoppage and a faceoff.
On the Stars’ next power play, the Wild did a good job making zone entries a bit more difficult, and Chris Porter and Ryan Suter teamed up to create a good shorthanded opportunity.
“PK was the difference in the game for us early,” Torchetti said. “We made some big stops and big blocks in that 4-on-3.”
The Wild said the special teams battle would be key on Friday, and it made sure not to slack in that regard.
As the Wild has applied more and more pressure to the Stars in all three zones, it has been able to force turnovers. One created by David Jones turned into the Wild’s opening goal in Game 5.
After the Wild dumped the puck in from center ice, Jones got in hard on the forecheck, hounding Alex Goligoski.
The Stars defenseman carried the puck out from behind his net, but Jones stayed a stride behind him, and used his wingspan and the length of his stick to poke the puck away, and into the path of Granlund.
From there, Granlund waited, got Niemi to go down, and then jammed the puck in from below the goal line.
Granlund was on his game Friday night, whether the puck was on his stick, or in his skates.
He showed off a little of both.
Moving to the left wing, Granlund has been very effective, and has quickly created habits in his game moving away from the middle that have helped the Wild.
As a center, Granlund would carry defensive responsibilities and have to be stationed lower in the offense zone. Positioned higher in his defensive zone, Granlund has often been the first man in on the forecheck, and has brought physicality with that pressure that has made a difference.
There are moments when one can tell things are just clicking for a player. None rang truer than in the second period when, without a stick in the defensive zone, a Stars shot created a rebound that slid in Granlund’s direction.
Calmly, Granlund stopped the puck with his skate blade, waited, and then flipped a back-heel pass resembling the poise of a Lionel Messi to get the puck over to Marco Scandella, and allow Minnesota to clear the zone.
Of course, no play for Granlund was more important than when he slipped a centering feed to Koivu, setting up his linemate for the late, tying goal in the third period.
“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.”
Torchetti, who coached Granlund in the American Hockey League, has praised the young forward many times during this series. He was again deserving of that praise on Friday.
“He’s probably our best competitor,” Torchetti said. “Heart of a lion, and that’s what it’s all about.”