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 4-3 overtime loss against the Dallas Stars at Xcel Energy Center.
A major missed opportunity for the Wild.
After Minnesota made it a 3-0 game in the second period, it was all Dallas. From puck possession, to shots on goal, and scoring chances, it was all Stars.
"You get up, and you want to just defend," Ryan Suter said. "You don't think about playing offense, and making them defend. Every hockey team that gets up, that’s the same situation, so we have to learn from it."
The Wild got away from doing the things that helped it get out in front by three goals. Minnesota sat back, and played a different game than the one that buoyed it into a multi-goal lead.
"Most of the guys have been here … and know that's not good enough, that's not acceptable," Thomas Vanek said.
The small details that Head Coach Mike Yeo had implored his team to correct from games past were cleaned up, as the Wild spent a good portion of the first half hour of hockey in Dallas' end zone.
But after that, it was just a different Wild team, and one that didn't have nearly enough to hold back a high-powered Dallas team.
"When you get the lead, you have to play smarter, not safer, and sometimes we tend to play safer," Vanek said. "They just kept creating and scoring goals."
About two weeks ago, Vanek, a longtime teammate of Jason Pominville, had some advice for his slumping, goalless linemate.
"Just take shots on net."
Simple advice, and Pominville obliged against the Stars and scored his first goal of the season.
In the same quote, Vanek also said when you're slumping it's important not to pick out corners. But with the Wild having just killed off a penalty, and with no one in the same area code as he skated below the blue line, Pominville cocked his stick and unleashed a shot into the top corner, and past the glove of Antti Niemi for his first.
"It's been the toughest stretch of my career," Pominville said. "I'm not going to throw the towel in; I'm going to keep working, and keep pushing, and trying to be better.
"I'm never going to be the guy that cheats on the offensive side. I'll always try to be reliable defensively, and let the offense fall into itself."
The chances had come and gone for Pominville, who had pucks bounce off his blade and shots that hit the post during a frustrating, 21-game stretch.
"We were all real happy for [Pominville] there; that's a big monkey off his back," Darcy Kuemper said. "Hopefully he gets going now because he's a great player, and that was a slump that was a lot of bad luck."
After being stifled by a 1-1-3 in the neutral zone on Friday night, the Wild flipped the script in the first period on Saturday against the Stars, entering the offensive zone primarily with control of the puck.
The Wild attempted 32 zone entries in the first 20 minutes on Friday, with 12 carry-ins, seven other controlled entries, and 13 dump-ins. Those controlled entries led to many more shot-attempts, scoring chances, and zone time.
Minnesota led 2-0 after the first period, and each of its goals were scored following carry-ins.
The Wild was much quicker and more decisive in its transitions, beginning with player positioning, and how it operated as a five-man unit.
Not only did Justin Fontaine make his return to the lineup, he didn't miss a beat after missing 11 games.
Fontaine, who has missed 13 games overall this season, said it was frustrating to sustain an injury at a time when he was on his game. Against the Stars, Fontaine not only played his first game since Oct. 30, he was one of the Wild's most effective forwards.
On Minnesota's first goal, Fontaine drove to the front of the net and provided a screen for Vanek, completely obscuring Niemi's sight.
The second Wild goal, on which Fontaine recorded the secondary assist, he made one of those "hockey IQ" plays Head Coach Mike Yeo has said the Wild has missed from the winger.
On the backcheck, Fontaine kept his stick blade on the ice, disrupting a pass, before diving to poke a loose puck ahead to Vanek to spring a 2-on-1.
When Zach Parise returned on Friday, Yeo said the Wild's forward depth—coming back together with a clean bill of health—would force teams to "pick their poison" against Minnesota.
In what was the ninth game both Parise and Fontaine have been in the lineup together, the Wild's depth was a major difference in the first half of the game. But here's why having both Parise and Fontaine is important.
With a fully healthy top six (Parise included) Vanek can slot in on a third line that can be an effective scoring line because of its skill, and the matchups it will draw.
Having Fontaine allows that third line to round out, and, as Yeo has said, it's a line that's constructed to score. In the 10 games Fontaine has played in, the Wild's third line has nine goals. In the 12 games without him, the third line scored twice.
"For the most part, [Fontaine] looked good," Vanek said. "As a line we played pretty good."