The Minnesota Wild got a goal from Gustav Olofsson
and 21 saves from Steve Michalek
in a 3-1 loss to the Dallas Stars in the first game of the NHL Prospect Tournament on Friday afternoon in Traverse City, Mich.
Olofsson, one of seven returners for the Wild from last year’s tournament, scored on a shot through traffic at 10:23 of the first period to give the Wild a 1-0 lead. Michalek kept the Wild in the game in the first period despite a 13-6 shots advantage for the Stars, who pressured from the opening drop.
Adam Vay, who relieved Michalek after he left the game in the third with a leg cramp, stopped all nine shots he faced.
“They both looked the part, they had a confidence about them that I thought fed through the whole team,” said Iowa coach Derek Lalonde, who is serving as head coach for the Wild in the tournament. “That’s a good sign.”
Minnesota maintained its lead through 20 minutes despite being outshot 13-6.
Dallas tied the score at 6:20 of the second period on Cole Ully’s first of two goals.
Later in the second, Olofsson injured his knee, left the game and did not return. Lalonde said Olofsson was in good spirits afterward; however, he had no further update on his condition, saying he was unlikely to play in the second game of the tournament on Saturday against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Samuel Laberge scored the eventual game-winner, beating Michalek with a snap shot from the slot at 2:10 of the third period off a faceoff.
“That was the one disappointing thing, we gave up two face-off goals,” Lalonde said. “That’s probably the unfortunate reality; those are some of the unfortunate realities, some of the face-off details aren’t going to be there when you only have two practices. That was the difference in the games.”
Michalek allowed two goals on 23 shots before leaving with injury. Vay entered and made an immediate impact, stopping a shot on a 2-on-0 break and two more from point-blank range moments later to keep the Wild within a goal.
Michalek is expected to be available on Saturday but Vay was scheduled to start regardless. Lalonde said Michalek should be ready to serve as Vay’s backup.
Ully scored his second of the game into an empty net with 55 seconds remaining in regulation.
Despite the loss, Lalonde said he was pleased with some of the details in Minnesota’s play on Friday.
“On a whole, a lot of positives,” Lalonde said. “Some of the things structurally we talked about, whether it was being together on a breakout, whether it was our d-zone coverage, establishing a forecheck, being structured, I thought it translated really well.”
Joel Eriksson Ek and Alex Tuch each hit the post late in the second period and Eriksson Ek was stopped on a breakaway with nine minutes left in regulation.
"I thought both [Tuch] and Ek and even [Christoph] Bertschy, towards the end of the game when we were pushing for the tying goal, I thought those guys made an impact on the game," Lalonde said. "I think it's natural for a lot of anxiety, a lot of pressure playing their first game in front of the entire organization. I thought they pressed a little bit.
"[Tuch is] going to be a work in progress. With his game, there's a lot he can improve on but there are some things you just can't teach."
Minnesota, which went 1-3 in last year’s tournament and allowed a total of 24 goals in those games, drops the puck against Carolina at 6 p.m. CST on Saturday. The Wild have Sunday off before facing the New York Rangers at 2 p.m. CST on Monday.
The Wild is one of eight NHL teams participating in the tournament, competing in the Ted Lindsay Division alongside the Stars, the Hurricanes and the Rangers. The Gordie Howe Division is comprised of the Red Wings, the St. Louis Blues, the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Chicago Blackhawks.
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