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Five Takeaways From Wild Vs. Stars: Game 3

by Evan Sporer / Minnesota Wild

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 5-3 win against the Dallas Stars in Game 3 of its first round Western Conference Stanley Cup Playoff Series at Xcel Energy Center.

FIRST TAKEAWAY

If not now, then when?

That had to be the question the Wild was asking itself when spotting the Stars a two-goal lead just five minutes into the first period.

Only four teams in the history of the Stanley Cup Playoffs have erased 3-0 series deficits in 122 tries. That was the situation the Wild was facing if it scored fewer goals than Dallas in 60 minutes or more (if necessary) on Monday.

So with just under six minutes to go in the first period, down 2-0, the Wild played like a team with its season on the line. Over the next 13:47, the Wild held Dallas without a shot, and took complete ownership of the puck, scoring twice, taking 10 shots, and displaying an intensity and effectiveness unlike the first six-plus periods of this series.

"It is kind of that way," Jason Pominville said. "You want to dig deep; you want to find a way."

The results followed, and a tie game gave Minnesota new life, a lease that it continued to thrive under, taking its first lead of the series before the second period ended and shooting a bolt of adrenaline through Xcel Energy Center.

Minnesota's season wasn't literally in the balance, but no one had to tell the Wild what was at stake. So after that push which, not-so-subtly saved its season, the Wild saw no reason to let up, parlaying that momentum into its third goal, in the second period, taking its first lead of the postseason.

"We could have easily (folded)," Pominville said. "We could have done that a while ago, too. We're not that type of group. We're not that group that's going to fold. We're going to keep fighting, and keep pushing."

With 20 minutes separating the Wild from making it a 2-1 series, Minnesota did not let up, as teams subconsciously tend to do protecting a late lead. Instead, Mikael Granlund, who had a fantastic game, drew a penalty, and the Wild drew blood, with Mikko Koivu cashing in to push the lead to 4-2 with a vital insurance goal.

The Wild held court. Now it will get another chance to do so at home on Wednesday.

SECOND TAKEAWAY

The Wild's third line, which has been so paramount to Minnesota's success since assembled by Torchetti in mid-February, came up huge in the second period.

Twice.

Erik Haula and Pominville each scored, and the Wild's third line flipped a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 lead in the matter of one period.

It began like so many of the line's most effective shifts, with a defensive play. Nino Niederreiter stripped Alex Goligoski at Minnesota's blue line, catalyzing the rush the other way.

From there, the three forwards sped up ice, Pominville flying wide, changing the geometry of the rush, and allowing Haula to get his stick in the lane for a deflection that beat Kari Lehtonen.

"We threw the kitchen sink at them," Haula said.

Recall the Wild preached a need to use its defense to create offense, and to present sticks in shooting lanes to make Lehtonen's life more difficult.

"That's exactly what we needed to do," Niederreiter said. "It was important for us to get to the net and get a net-front presence, and be even grittier."

Pominville, who was originally credited with the tying goal, left little doubt on the Wild's next that it was his. Playing four-on-four, Niederreiter made a power move to the net, Lehtonen stopped his initial shot, but Pominville crashed the crease and popped in the rebound.

"They complement each other, they talk on the bench, they make adjustments as they go along, and they do a really good job," Torchetti said. "They play for each other, and that's why they're a very successful line."

THIRD TAKEAWAY

Chris Porter has been one of if not the Wild's most effective forwards this postseason.

It was fitting in that sense that he scored Minnesota's first even-strength goal.

With the Wild buzzing around the Stars zone for several consecutive shifts, that sustained pressure paid off when Porter was able to swat in the Wild's first 5-on-5 goal of the series.

As the Wild worked the puck around the zone, it made its way up to Jonas Brodin at the right point. Opposite him was Haula, banging his stick on the ice, calling for the puck with plenty of real estate to operate from.

As Haula picked his head up, he either saw or heard Porter, stationed in the right circle, banging his stick repeatedly on the ice. Haula shoveled a shot-pass in his direction, and with Goligoski closing the space, Porter swung his stick in the direction of the puck, and past Lehtonen.

"I was just letting him know that I was open," Porter said. I just kind of gripped the stick and swung it like a golf club and fortunate for me it did find the back. We did build some momentum after that.

With how well and how hard the Wild pushed late in the first period, having something tangible on the scoreboard to show for it was pretty crucial.

"[Porter] is a kid that's whaling out there," Torchetti said. "He's playing good, and he's playing with a lot of confidence, and he's playing with a lot of speed. When you're playing with a lot of speed you're not worrying about systems because you know you're going to get there, and he's playing confident."

FOURTH TAKEAWAY



Not only did the Wild have the pressures of protecting a one-goal lead heading into the third period, there's also the reality Minnesota had allowed Dallas to climb back into two games in the regular season in which the Wild held the advantage on the scoreboard.



But 5:55 in, Granlund powered through Jordie Benn in the corner, and 31 seconds after that, Koivu deposited a rebound atop the crease to give the Wild an all-important two-goal edge.

"I wasn’t worried about it," Devan Dubnyk said. "I just felt like the way things were going tonight guys were getting their legs and doing what we needed to do. I had a lot of confidence that we were going to come out in the third and even get another one and we were able to do that."



On the play, Koivu showed supreme patience, first corralling the loose puck before using one stickhandle to get Lehtonen to rotate, and then sliding the puck between his pads.



It was an important moment for the captain, and one that allowed the Wild to breathe easier but, in doing so, continue to play its game for the rest of the period.

"Sometimes the game doesn't go your way, but he showed up big tonight, and I'm sure he'll show up big again," Torcheti said.

FIFTH TAKEAWAY

The Wild's defensive gaffes the past two games haven't been numerous, but they've stood out, as they have in all three, in that the momentarily lapses have led to goals.

There have been neutral zone turnovers, losing track of players, or just small moments that Dallas has been able to turn into goals.

Again on Monday, very quickly in Game 3, one of those mistakes ended up in the back of the Wild's net.

The Stars controlled the puck off the opening faceoff, and worked the puck around Minnesota's zone. Though the Wild gained possession, an errant pass up the boards ended up on a Stars stick, Patrick Sharp was left all alone in front, and the ensuing shot, the first of the game, 26 seconds in, was tipped home by Sharp.

"We knew we gave up the puck on the wall on the first goal," Torchetti said. "We didn't battle for it; great execution on their end."

It was another Stars goal that came off a sequence that began with Minnesota in possession, something the Wild swore off after surrendering three of those in Game 1.

"It was a tough start," Niederreiter said. "Those goal, we gave them to them. It was our own mistakes."

It dug the Wild into an early hole, but one it would trampoline out of.

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