The Minnesota Wild did something in Game 3 they hadn't done but twice this whole season - come from behind and win. Even more important was the way the game had started. Just 26 seconds in, Patrick Sharp deflected a shot past Devan Dubnyk. Some how, some way, the Wild defense had left Sharp, a player with 511 career points, alone in front of the net. After the Wild gave up a second goal to Sharp, something changed with the team.
The Chris Porter goal with under a minute left in the first period was huge. It was scored in time that can be used to swing the momentum of games. The Wild were down on the scoreboard, and it was fortunate to be down just one goal. But as this Wild team has shown, sometimes it can go into intermission with a lot of momentum, but then seem to never show back up in the second period.
This was not what happened in Game 3. The Wild used the first five minutes of the second period to make a statement to the Stars on how the rest of the game would be played. Right out of the gate, Minnesota got 10 shot attempts as they hemmed the line of Ales Hemsky - Mattias Janmark - and Valeri Nichuskin deep in the Dallas zone for a 1:29. With the crowd roaring in approval, the Wild got its first real, legitimate offensive zone pressure of the series.
Wild with good pressure from the 22-56-29 line— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) April 19, 2016
Then the following shift happened, and, in my opinion, was the turning point of the game. Sure the Wild were hitting and, the Nino Niederreiter - Erik Haula - Jason Pominville line made life tough on the Stars during that shift. However, it was the Wild captain, Mikko Koivu, providing the biggest message of them all. He put a heavy hit on Jamie Benn deep in the right corner of the Stars' end. It was this loud, crushing blow that garnered a huge applause from the crowd as it placed an exclamation point on the previous two and half minutes. The rest of the team took notice when Koivu, normally not one to initiate such heavy contact, doing the things to help keep the puck in the zone.
Koivu hammered Benn in the corner— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) April 19, 2016
John Torchetti then threw the Justin Fontaine - Charlie Coyle - Jason Zucker line on the ice after Koivu's big hit. Coyle got a partial breakaway that had to be stopped by Kari Lehtonen. At this point, the Stars were reeling after not being able to get out of the zone or through the neutral zone cleanly. It was the best five minutes of hockey from the Wild we've seen so far in these playoffs.
A requisite first 5 minutes of the period for a playoff team. Wild still trail, but controlling the action.— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) April 19, 2016
Then John Torchetti went back to his best line of the night - 22-56-29. Niederreiter forced a turnover in the neutral zone that led to Haula's game-tying goal. It capped off a great start to the period. Minnesota then played the rest of the game blocking shots, taking the body, and using its speed to create more chances. Mikko Koivu added a huge power play goal in the third period that would eventually become the game-winning goal. He added a big blocked shot with the empty net at the other end. But if he had not shown his commitment to taking the body and getting his teammates to do the same, who knows exactly what could have happened.
Koivu hasn't always to fans what they think a leader should be. He was in Game 3.