Things were cruising along for the Minnesota Wild. They had played an excellent home period to open their match against division- and league-leading Dallas and led the game 2-0 at the half-way point, having gotten goals from a recently quiet Charlie Coyle and newly re-signed Jared Spurgeon. They had chased Kari Lehtonen from the ice, to be replaced by Antti Niemi. They had played with swagger, confidence, and had the home crowd really into watching their team dominate a game in their white-out road whites. Unlike the start to many recent games, the team had life from the opening faceoff and went right to work asserting their game. They were on a path to sweet redemption following their collapse a month prior to the same Dallas Stars team that battled back and won a game in which the Wild led.
Everything was going swimmingly, but then something changed. At 11:52 of the second period, Patrick Sharp put a hit on Mikael Granlund and somehow within the ensuing scrum, both Sharp and Granlund were ushered to the penalty box. The tension in the building became palpable with the memory of the prior game against these Dallas Stars in which they scored in a bunch and turned a deficit into a lead. There was that ghastly feeling of "here we go again." Watching it once, and then again on the replay, it was clear that all Granlund did was absorb the hit from Sharp. It was a bit of a rough hit, and taking Sharp to the box was not out-of-league. However, it was very odd to see Granlund sent to the sin bin for just standing there.
Granlund literally gets a roughing minor for taking a check— Michael Russo (@Russostrib) December 22, 2015
Just 32 seconds later, Mikko Koivu would join Granlund in the box after interfering with Alex Goligoski on the 4-on-4. The wide-open ice on the first penalties already had Wild fans clutching their beers with white knuckles, but the mood of the crowd was really sullied when the team went down to 4-on-3 for 1:28 and the remaining 32 seconds of 5-on-4 penalty kill time. However, the team was able to hold steady with a consistent diet of Jarret Stoll, Ryan Carter and Marco Scandella against the highly-lethal Dallas offense, and managed to kill the penalty.
Humangous big PK for the Wild.— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) December 22, 2015
From that point, Dallas gathered steam and slowly but steadily tilted the ice back in their favor. Their power play had awakened the sleeping giant and the Stars sprung into action. Just a couple short minutes later, this happened:
And something very similar would happen 3 more times before Nino Niederreiter would break out of his slump with a workmanlike tally of his own. But by that point Dallas had turned a 2 goal deficit into a 2 goal lead, and the Wild would not be able to quite catch up before allowing Dallas to cash in on 2 empty net goals to completely sew up the victory. Sometimes it is strange to see what can change the complexion of a game, and tonight it was at the hands of the zebras.