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 loss against the Dallas Stars at Xcel Energy Center.
Holding a 2-0 lead late in the second period, everything changed in a span of 4:30.
The Wild and Stars were playing a pretty even game, with the Wild having scored twice in the first period. Dallas is a dangerous team that will get its chances, and with five minutes separating the Wild from a third period lead, the Stars turned it on.
It started with a seemingly innocuous play: Dallas turned Minnesota over on the forecheck, and the Stars worked the puck back to the point. Jordie Benn took a shot that made it past Jason Zucker, beating Devan Dubnyk on the far side, and making it 2-1 with 5:01 remaining.
The push from Dallas was on.
With 3:28 remaining in the second, the Stars found themselves on a power play. Similarly, it seemed like the Wild put itself in a pretty good position. Minnesota had killed off the first 1:58 of that minor, but then Patrick Eaves connected with Vernon Fiddler on a tip in the high slot to tie the score.
Less than a minute later, the Wild won a defensive zone faceoff, only to turn the puck over seconds later, leaving Tyler Seguin alone on the doorstep one-on-one against Dubnyk.
And just like that, it was a 3-2 Stars lead.
"It's not the way we planned it," Charlie Coyle said. "We came out hard and it's nice jumping off to a 2-0 lead, especially against a team like that, and get rewarded right away.
"But I think our sense of urgency kind of dropped, and we stopped going as hard for pucks, and winning those loose puck battles, and what we were doing before that was making us successful."
It was a goal that ballooned into three goals, and just like that, a multi-goal lead had become a one-goal deficit. A fourth unanswered goal was scored in the third period, and the Wild wasn't able to climb all the way back in its comeback attempt.
The three-goal Stars sequence also came after the Wild had killed off a four-on-three and five-on-four Stars power play, at which point Minnesota looked poised to gain momentum.
"I really felt like that four-on-four call changed the complexion of the game," Head Coach Mike Yeo said. "Whether we didn't respond well enough to it, or whether that gave them some life, it was different game from that point on."
In those instances when an opposing team comes with a push, or even scores, momentum begins to shift. How long that momentum is allowed is key to limiting any kind of damage. Unfortunately for the Wild, that 270-second sequence lasted just too long.
Some of what Yeo warned against during the Wild's recent nine-game point streak manifested itself on Monday.
"We were playing in tight games, and we knew that we had to defend, and we were focused on that," Yeo said. "We weren't scoring a lot of goals so we had to do it, and then the next thing you know, you score a bunch of goals, and we've forgotten about some of the things that created those situations for us."
After signing a contract extension earlier in the day, Jared Spurgeon didn't wait long to give Wild fans something to cheer about.
Spurgeon opened the scoring on Monday with a DIY goal. He circled back in his own zone to collect the puck with Dallas dumping it in amid a change, and then took off.
He cut across the center circle, angling toward the Dallas blue line. Spurgeon sped past Jamie Benn and Seguin, gaining the zone with a controlled zone entry.
With Spurgeon getting to the faceoff dot, he feigned as if he was headed below the goal line, only to take a shortside shot perfectly placed under the crossbar and in to make it 1-0 4:57 into the first.
A lot of what Spurgeon had been heralded for throughout the day after signing his new contract was on display: The vision, the skating ability, and the way he can jump in on and influence a play offensively.
Yeo said after morning skate that part of Nino Niederreiter's recent slide, "was between the ears." That Niederreiter needed to simplify his game.
And that's what he did.
Niederreiter came out on his first shift of the game and nearly set up a goal. He carried the puck below the goal line, used his big frame to shield off a defender, and fed Justin Fontaine in front, who nearly scored.
Just about 10 minutes later, the goal did come. Niederreiter made a simple but effect play in his own zone to chip the puck up the wall to Fontaine to spring a two-on-one. With Fontaine and Coyle charging full steam at Alex Goligoski, Fontaine moved the puck over to Coyle, who made no mistake, ripping a wrist shot to the far side and past the glove of Antti Niemi .
"I feel like we had a really good game, and I feel like we talked a lot on the bench, and on the ice," Niederreiter said. "The support today was great, and we have to build on that, and try to get better."
In the third period, Niederreiter broke a 15-game goal drought with another simple play. He drove to the net, got two whacks at a pass from Coyle, and stuffed home a loose puck in front . Niederreiter going to the net and having success is a very good sign.
"I was definitely happy when that went over the line, but at the same time, I would feel a lot better if we won," Niederreiter said.
Overall, it was the simplicity and decisiveness of Niederreiter's play that carried his game on Monday.
The beneficiary of that first Niederreiter play, Coyle, continues to play some very stellar hockey.
When Coyle gets his legs churning, and plays a straight ahead game, it's fun to watch, and that style of play is typically paired with good results.
On Coyle's goal on Monday, he made a decisive play on a two-on-one, and took what Dallas gave him. Skating on a two-on-one, Goligoski did a snow angel into the passing lane, daring Coyle to take a high shot on goal, which he did, and he scored.
Coyle would return the favor later for his linemate, setting up Niederreiter for the Wild's third goal. Coyle and Niederreiter executed a give-and-go, and the former, skating into a pass from the latter, glided below the goal line and left the puck in the crease for Niederreiter, who pounced on the pass and made good on it for the goal.
"Both Charlie and Nino — and I'm not trying to leave [Fontaine] out of this — but those two guys were, right from the start of the game, were on top of it," Yeo said. "That's a good sign for us."
Besides those two scoring plays, Coyle was very active all game, and his line with Niederreiter and Fontaine was very effective. As Yeo had hoped would be the case when the line was assembled, it was able to generate good in-zone time by cycling the puck.
"I don't think we focus on scoring or anything, we just focus on going out and just playing hard, playing smart, just playing simple, hard hockey," Coyle said. "We got some bounces, good wall play, and just those little things that led to the goals."
The Stars and Wild met on Friday 15 years and four days to the date of the very first Minnesota Wild, Dallas Stars game. This latest matchup had an old-school feel to it, brought about by what was going on off the ice.
It began with Jeff Nielsen doing the "Let's Play Hockey Announcement ." Neilsen, a Minnesota native, scored the first and game-winning goal in the game 15 years ago.
Many of Neilsen's former teammates were probably paying close attention to what was going during the second intermission, when the jerseys for the Alumni Game that will proceed the 2016 Stadium Series Game were unveiled. Former North Stars and Minnesota Wild players will team up to take on the alumni of the Chicago Blackhawks wearing some very sharp jerseys.
As we approach the Christmas break, and into the New Year, the reminders of the outdoor hockey that's to come in Minnesota continue to build.