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In-Game Adjustment Buoyed Wild In Game 3

by Evan Sporer / Minnesota Wild

After giving up two quick goals in Game 3, Minnesota Wild interim Head Coach John Torchetti had plenty of impetus to make some kind of adjustment.

Dallas Stars forward Patrick Sharp had scored twice, each goal coming against the line of Erik Haula, Nino Niederreiter, and Jason Pominvile.

So instead of continuing to ride with his third line, which has assumed a shutdown role, against Dallas' top forward trio of Sharp, Jamie Benn, and Cody Eakin, Torchetti tweaked the matchup, charging that assignment to Mikko Koivu, Mikael Granlund, and David Jones. 

"You get scored on for two goals, so it's like, 'This matchup is not working, maybe we'll get back to it later in the second,'" Torchetti said.

The move came late in the first period after an unsuccessful Wild power play. Over the final two-plus periods, Haula's line thrived, Koivu's line was stout defensively, and the Wild scored four consecutive goals en route to a season-saving comeback. 

"We had to make some adjustments there in the first period," Jones said. "Our line played them hard. They have a lot of speed, Benn is a big body, and he's a guy that you have to watch any time that he's on the ice. We did a good job for the last two periods, and we'll see what happens next game."

Jones said nothing was ever said out loud in regards to his line taking over the matchup, but it became obvious over the last two periods how much it was out against Benn's.

Koivu, Granlund, and Jones each played at least nine minutes against each forward on the Stars top line.

And the numbers were very favorable for Minnesota: the Wild had the greater share of shot-attempts in that matchup, and Benn, Sharp, and Eakin accounted for one scoring-chance over the last 40 minutes of game time.

"We have to be really good with the puck," Granlund said. "It starts with all that. If we turn over the puck, they have a lot of skill, a lot of speed, they can go the other way, and that's the number one thing. Obviously we have to be on the right side of the puck, and take space and time away from those guys."

What the switch also did, according to Torchetti, was free up the Haula line offensively.

After Haula picked up an assist late in the first period playing with different linemates on the heels of that power play, his line scored twice in the second period, once at five-on-five, and once at four-on-four.

"I just want them to check; that's the truth," Torchetti said of Haula's line. "They get points from checking. I don't look for offense from them.

"I talked to Nino about it, and when you stray away from your game is when you think you want to get more points, and that's when your game changes. You kind of get on the wrong side of things because you're trying to do something extra, but just do what you do best, and good things will happen."

What Koivu's line did so effectively, according to Torchetti and the three forwards, was manage the puck well, and play physical on its shifts, denying Dallas' top forwards time and space in turn.

"It's something we haven't really brought enough of," Jones said. "They have a team that skates really well, they have a lot of speed, so if we can get on them and get in front of them, and slow them down that way, it will definitely help us in the long run."

Vanek And Parise Skate

Injured forwards Thomas Vanek and Zach Parise were each on the Xcel Energy Center ice on Tuesday. Neither has appeared in the Wild's first round series due to upper-body injuries. 

Parise skated on his own prior to an optional practice, when Vanek joined a small group of skaters.

"We'll see how [Vanek] feels after today," Torchetti said. "I haven't talked to him yet; he just got off. I'll have a report for you maybe tomorrow."

Torchetti said he would have an update on Parise on Wednesday.

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