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Leaders Come Up Big For Wild In Big Moment

by Evan Sporer / Minnesota Wild

According to interim Head Coach John Torchetti, he always asks for more.

Just maybe on Monday night, with the Minnesota Wild's backs against the wall, he asked a little louder.

Facing a potential 3-0 deficit in its best-of-7 series against the Dallas Stars, the Wild returned home to Saint Paul, and fell behind 2-0 4:10 into the first period courtesy a pair of Patrick Sharp goals.

Entering Monday, the Wild had won five times in 36 games after conceding the first goal. Minnesota had erased two two-goal deficits in victories all season, and none in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since the 2003 Western Conference Semifinals against the Vancouver Canucks, according to Elias Sports Bureau.

So during the first intermission, with the Wild already clawing its way back into the game having taken the final five shots of the first, and cutting Dallas' lead in half, Torchetti asked for more in the locker room.

"He challenged a few of us, and we had to respond, and we did," Jason Pominville said.

Pominvile had two goals and an assist, the captain Mikko Koivu scored the game winner, and while Torchetti said leadership can come from many different players, two of whom he cited as leaders because of their roles as captains and veterans help the Wild complete an about-face with its season in the balance.

"We have great leadership in here, we kind of grabbed it, and Torch had his thing," said Chris Porter, who started the Wild's rally with Minnesota's first goal of Game 3, and first even-strength goal of the series. "To start the second we played a really good game. We were in on them, we were physical, we were fast, and it's a credit one to our leadership in the room."

Torchetti said his peace during the intermission, and it kept the Wild's spark from late in the first ignited. Minnesota went on to complete a stretch of 13:47 over two periods in which it outshot Dallas 10-0, culminating with Pominville assisting on the game-tying goal when his centering feed found Erik Haula's stick.

"Leaders calm the group down and then we go," said Haula, who had a goal and an assist for his first multi-point playoff game. "It was 2-1, 40 minutes of hockey left. There’s really not much [to say], everybody knows what to do, everybody knows when we’re playing well, and everyone knows what it looks like."

Those leaders continued to lead on the ice. Pominville crashed the net to cash in on a rebound late in the second period to give the Wild its first lead of the series at 3-2.

That was followed by an all-important Koivu power-play goal to open the third, one that gave the Wild a two-goal cushion that came in handy when the Stars drew within a goal later in the period, and stood up as the game-winner.

"Mikko's our leader," Torchetti said. "Like I said, he's a guy that we have to count on.

"Our leaders, we have to count on our leaders. We're short one of them, but [Pominville] is one of leaders, [Ryan Suter] is one of our leaders, and we have to keep upping our games as the games go on. We just can't stay at the same level. You can't have a ceiling to your game. That's what it's all about."

If it sounded like a broken record, it was because Torchetti conveyed nearly the same sentiment the day prior.

"You always trust your leaders; that's the bottom-line," he said on Sunday. "When I walk outside the door, the leaders are the ones that make sure the message is being sent.

"Going into Game 2 our leaders did a good job of recognizing it and knowing that we had to play a little bit harder, and battle harder. We still have to do that more tomorrow night."

There were plenty of other players who led in Game 3. Mikael Granlund had two shots on goal, played over 22 minutes, and drew the penalty that led to Koivu's power-play goal. David Jones had a shot on goal, four hits, and was effective just about every time he hit the ice. Haula and Nino Niederreiter had multi-point games, and Devan Dubnyk made a "remember-that-save" stop on Radek Faksa to keep the Wild's deficit at two in the first period.

But with all the pressure on, Koivu and Pominville came up with performances that embodied leadership.

"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."

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