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Five Takeaways From Wild Vs. Stars: Game 6

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 5-4 loss against the Dallas Stars in Game 6 of its first round Western Conference Stanley Cup Playoff Series at Xcel Energy Center.



Crazier things, right?

There are times when momentum, or any good feeling can be so sapped from a team or building. It can be deafeningly quiet. It can be hard to tell there are 19,000-plus waiting to explode.

But they did.

Oh boy, they did.

The Wild went down swinging; Minnesota would have it no other way. Down 4-0 in the third period, 20 minutes away from the end of its season, and 13 shots on goal to show for 40 minutes of hockey, things seemed at their bleakest.

"We could have just sat back and let it be a 4-0 game," Jared Spurgeon said.

But the Wild loves adversity, or at least has learned to strive when it comes knocking at its doorstep.

"It's our attitude to give all that we have and see what happens," Mikko Koivu said.

It's why the Wild scored three straight times in the third, coming tantalizingly close to tying the game. When Kari Lehtonen nearly passed the puck onto Jason Zucker’s stick at 4-3 out of his goal, an already electric Xcel Energy Center would have blown a socket.

"I loved the push," interim Head Coach John Torchetti said. "I thought we had it when [Zucker] had it there to make it 4-4."

Minnesota scratched and clawed. It knows no other way. But the hole it found itself in was finally too deep to scale. The rope was pulled by all, but one needs a lot of rope when trying to make up a four-goal deficit.

"It wasn't a good start but we were right there at the end," Ryan Suter said. "There's not a lot of quit in the room. We showed that in the third period. It was just too bad we got down so far."

No one expected the Wild to find itself in the position it was just in. It was written off in February, mired in its longest losing streak of the season that dropped it to 11th place in the Western Conference.

It wasn't how the Wild wanted to go out though, not in February, and not in late April. The fight never left, especially as the seconds ticked down on 2015-16.

"Just the pride we have in this room," Spurgeon said. "No one wants to go out the way we were playing in the first two periods there. You could see everyone in the third period was laying it all on the line. It [stinks] that it came up short."


Six games into a series against the Western Conference's top seed, the Wild knew the Stars strengths. It knew things that it could not do against Dallas that, if it did, could spell danger.

But in the first period on Sunday, Minnesota did a few things to let the Stars exhibit their strengths, and ever the opportunists, Dallas obliged.

It started by taking two penalties in a span of 25 seconds in the first period to put the Stars on a 5-on-3. Minnesota had taken two penalties in each of the past two games of this series, and, on the ensuing two-man advantage, Dallas made the Wild pay, to make the game 1-0.

"We can't put a team 5-on-3 like that," Torchetti said. "We said penalties, and that was the one (goal)."

Later in that period, and on many other instances, the Wild dove in on 50-50 pucks which, when you don’t win, gives Dallas a chance to get off to the races. On that occasion, the Stars did, and Patrick Sharp was the beneficiary on a rush, to make it 3-0 Dallas.


Furthermore, much of what allowed Minnesota to be successful was amiss in Game 6, and it made for a very different looking game than those that preceded it.

The neutral zone, an area the Wild didn't want to spend much time in, became a bit of a cluster. The Wild didn’t have much fluidity to its defensive zone exits, causing it to take more time to carry or move the puck from blue line to blue line.

It allowed the Stars to get in good defensive position, forcing turnovers that gave the puck back to Dallas, or for the Wild to play dump and chase, and with how well the Stars skate, retrieving pucks is no easy task.

That was how things began, and when the Stars quickly pocketed a 3-0 lead, it allowed them to play in more of a shell, not needing to take fewer offensive risks and just sit back.

When that happens, the task of getting the puck from one end of the ice to the other becomes all the more difficult.


One of the hardest pills through all this to swallow may be, at times, how well the Wild played.

Those minutes, periods or games, in the regular season or playoffs, showed how "hard to play against" Minnesota can be. Using its team speed, both skating quickly and making fast decisions, the Wild can make other teams uncomfortable by playing and thinking at a higher pace.

It’s how the Wild has been built to be successful and, when it clicks, it clicks.

"We have to find a way (to be consistent)," Torchetti said.

And when Minnesota was able to do that not only against the Stars, but the Chicago Blackhawks, the St. Louis Blues, or any team, the Wild was successful; the opponent was hardly the impediment.

The Wild didn't look the part of that team on Sunday the first two periods. It did at times in this series, it did during a season best six-game winning streak that all but booked its ticket to the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs late in the regular season, and it did in other streaks, like the third period of Game 6 against Dallas.

"Mental toughness is part of your game of building the consistency in your team," Torchetti said. "When you’re being pushed, you have to want to be pushed, and you have to want to do it for each other."

But Minnesota was never able to consistently maintain those levels, and eventually came up short.


Though the Xcel Energy Center is normally filled with green and red during Wild home games, Sunday started off purple.

Prince, a Minnesota native, and a music icon, passed away this week. And to honor the Twin Cities legend, back in Saint Paul for the first game since his death, the Wild honored Prince with many pre- and in-game moments to celebrate the life of a musical genius.

To the Wild coming out to Prince's "1999" blasting through the arena, to a purple lights and laser show that led into the traditional green, to a moment of silence prior to the National Anthem, and Prince’s music being played throughout the afternoon, Game 6 took many opportunities to honor one of Minnesota’s biggest stars.

And when the Wild scored, things really got crazy.

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