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 2-1 win against the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center.
After morning skate, when discussing how the Wild could protect a late lead if it had one on Saturday, Zach Parise advised against using the word 'protect.'
Instead, Parise said the Wild needed to come with the same game it did that afforded them that advantage, and make the NHL's highest-scoring team defend.
"That's not us as a group; those couple games where we allowed them back in," Devan Dubnyk said. "We're so good at now allowing that to happen. You don’t' think back to those games."
With a 2-0 lead entering the third period against Dallas, the Wild closed out a big Central Division victory. Dallas led in shots on goal, but many of those came from the outside. The Stars' possession largely began in its own zone, with Minnesota making them go 200 feet to try to generate offense.
"You can't just play defense," Mikko Koivu said. "You have to be active, and you have to try to create that momentum, and I thought we did that for the most part."
And as Head Coach Mike Yeo forecasted this morning, the Stars had a major early push, but the difference on Saturday from the previous games against Dallas this season was the Wild pushed back.
"The third period, I know they got the goal, but we probably could have had four goals with some of the opportunities that we had," Yeo said. "I liked the way that we were going there."
These divisional matchups are also four-point games. A regulation win pulled the Wild with 10 points of the Stars — a loss would have seen the Wild fall 14 points back.
The Wild needed something to get it going, and while the first intermission certainly provided a respite and a chance to reset, a shift early in the second period gave Minnesota some much-needed momentum.
On the second shift of the middle period, the line of Nino Niederreiter, Mikael Granlund, and Jason Pominville spent a good amount of time in Dallas' zone. While no shots on goal were taken, Dallas was forced to defend, and more importantly, the Wild wasn't.
That sequence was followed up with a strong one from Charlie Coyle's line, and four shifts later, the Wild scored to make it 1-0.
"The first period I didn't think we were doing a very good job of that," Yeo said of the Wild establishing time in the Stars' zone. "We weren't moving our feet in the offensive zone. We were getting pucks, and we were setting ourselves up in the offensive zone, but we weren't spending enough time in there."
When the Wild was able to carve out time near Dallas' goal, the game began to completely change.
"The second period, we did a much better job of that," Yeo said. "I would have liked to see a little bit more in the third period, but certainly I thought that was a big momentum shift in the game, and led to some offense for us."
Ryan Carter had a very, very efficient night in terms of doing things that make Ryan Carter effective.
As has been the case all season, Yeo had no qualms deploying his fourth line against any of Dallas'.
So Carter, Jarret Stoll, and Erik Haula took some shifts against Jamie Benn, the NHL's second-leading scorer, and its goals leader.
It's tough to neutralize Benn, but holding him scoreless (in the shifts the fourth line took against him) qualifies as some sort of victory. In the first period, Carter brought out the sandpaper and he and Benn went off for matching roughing minors, putting Dallas' top scorer in the penalty box.
Then in the second period, Carter provided a major boost with a goal. As Stoll carried the puck over the blue line, Carter drove toward the net. Stoll's cross-ice pass found Haula, who, somehow, with Jamie Oleksiak draped all over him, managed to push the puck back in the other direction, into the path of a charging Carter, who tapped it home.
That kind of complementary scoring is always a huge boost, but the Wild's fourth line had a strong game sans that goal. It was a nice cherry on top of a successful night.
The Wild goaltender, he was quite, quite stellar in the first 20 minutes, and completely changed the complexion of the game.
Recall the first period, in which the Stars controlled just about everything but the scoreboard. Shots on goal were 11-6, and shot-attempts were 22-6 at even-strength, and 32-8 overall.
"You know they're going to come here," Dubnyk said. "They don't have the record they have for no reason, and they're a great team at home as well. It's important being on the road that you weather the storm."
Dubynk, the Wild's lone All-Star, put on a show in the Lone Star state. The crown jewel of his resume was a sprawling, back-of-the-glove thwack on a Jyrki Jokopakka shot. With Dubnyk down and out after a slick Dallas passing sequence, he managed to get set (enough) while laying on his side, gathering enough potential energy to get a kinetic push and parry aside what looked like a sure goal.
The Wild coming out of that first period tied was almost a victory in and of itself, and gave Minnesota a chance to regroup and get to its game in the second.
"The guys worked hard, and we come out of that period 0-0, and that's a good spot for us," Dubnyk said. "Then we kind of took over and got to our game from then on, and that's what you have to do on the road."
Dubnyk bookended the game with clutch periods, coming up big down the stretch in the waning minutes, including a point-blank save on Benn in a 2-1 game with Dallas' goalie pulled with 60 seconds remaining.
"He was composed, and he was calm in there all night, and obviously made some huge saves," Yeo said.
An active stick by Charlie Coyle helped Thomas Vanek score his 13th goal of the season, and gave the Wild a big insurance goal late in the second period.
With Dallas attempting to exit its own zone, Coyle kept his stick in the passing lane with Cody Eakin looking for an outlet. Eakin's clear deflected off Coyle, and onto the waiting stick of Vanek, who had a 20-foot breakaway on Antti Niemi.
Vanek made no mistake, using three quick stickhandles to get Niemi to go down before roofing the puck under the crossbar.
The way the Wild played the second period, outshooting Dallas 15-8, and out-attempting the Stars 27-16, Minnesota earned a bounce. Coyle did a good job to read the breakout, but it was a fortuitous bounce to put Vanek in all alone.