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Stewart Sprints in Shootout, sabotages Stars in 3-2 victory

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Chris Stewart and Jason Pominville were the Wild’s heroes tonight as they maintained sole possession of first place in the Western Conference.

Minnesota Wild v Dallas Stars Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Minnesota started out strong in the first period, having the tone set by their speed. Dallas got some chances of their own early, but they were plagued by missing the net. Minnesota controlled play until Jason Pominville lasered a puck past Kari Lehtonen’s glove to make it 1-0 for Minnesota.

After that? Minnesota mostly fell asleep at the wheel, and this continued until the second period. After a failed power play that was nullified by a Charlie Coyle penalty, Dallas started finding their game and applying pressure to Devan Dubnyk. Three and a half minutes into the period, Granlund took the puck into the Dallas zone with speed and Jason Zucker alongside him. Esa Lindell dragged him down, giving Minnesota a power play.

On the man advantage, Nino Niederreiter had the puck in the slot, hesitated, then dished it to Mikko Koivu for the one-timer. 2-0 Wild, but their troubles were just beginning.

One would think that surrendering several 2-goal leads in recent games would lead the Wild to be more aggressive with a lead. That didn’t prove to be the case, as Minnesota had just one shot through the first 10 minutes of the second period. It’s not a lead that tends to hold against the Stars, who even while struggling to make the playoffs are still dangerous.

Dallas struck when Jason Spezza picked off Ryan Suter’s attempt to chip the puck out of the zone. Spezza gave a quick pass to Roussel, who fooled Devan Dubnyk into thinking he’d shoot. Instead, he slid the puck to Seguin, and Dubnyk was too late to cover the net. Minnesota’s lead was cut in half.

Minnesota wasted another power play opportunity, but after that the two teams started trading chances, to no avail. But Dallas got a golden opportunity at the end of the period when Jared Spurgeon and Eric Staal took penalties in rapid succession, giving the Stars a 5-on-3 advantage. Dallas made quick work of the Wild, crowding the net and toying with Minnesota’s defenders. Finally, Patrick Eaves ended the Wild’s misery and scored the most impressive goal of the night, swatting an abdominal-level puck into the net with the blade of his stick. Through 40 mintues, a tie game.

No scoring would come in the third, but both sides showed urgency, which is something Minnesota didn’t possess much of in the second. Dallas in particular was playing with chippiness, and the refs were very much content to let them play throughout most of the period.

Overtime saw Dallas and Minnesota spend more time vying for positioning than the run-and-gun game that 3-on-3 play is mostly associated with. The biggest moment came when Charlie Coyle, who had been invisible most of the game, fell down at the Stars’ blue line, springing Dallas for a 3-on-0. Cody Eakin blew it, firing it above the net. Dallas out-shot Minnesota 4-2 in the extra frame, but no goals meant a shootout would decide.

Shootout results:

Pominville leading things off may have seemed a curious choice to Wild fans who know him primarily for not scoring these past three seasons. But he’s been good in the shootout for his career, and Boudreau rewarded him for a strong game by giving him the first crack at Lehtonen. Mikko Koivu went away from his tried-and-true backhand move and went forehand for the goal. Chris Stewart got the game-winner, validating Boudreau’s trust in him in the shootout.

A few things to take away from this game:

  • The most controversial thing was the refereeing in the match. At one point, Roussel grabbed Jason Zucker’s stick out of his hand and threw it. At another, Dallas dragged Mikael Granlund to the ground without a call. Dallas made it a point to obstruct and interfere, mostly on Zucker and Granlund. Angst about these non-calls came to a head when Dallas tied things at the end of the second.

But that’s not what caused them to blow the lead. Minnesota failed to have any aggressiveness whatsoever, allowing Dallas to play the game exactly how they wanted. The non-calls sucked, yes. They were out of Minnesota’s control. But there were plenty of things within the Wild’s control that they just weren’t doing. They had no one to blame but themselves.

  • This is also another example of good teams being able to overcome crappy officiating. Again, the game is almost always within a team’s control.
  • How great is the Granlund-Zucker line? Zucker had 5 shots. Granlund took 4 shots and a drawn penalty. It’s unbelievable how well those those two mesh.
  • When does Mikko Koivu get serious Selke consideration? He’s on pace for 25 goals and 60 points, and only two players with 500+ 5v5 minutes start in the defensive zone more than Koivu. Those 60 points are on-pace to be more than either Patrice Bergeron, Anze Kopitar, and Jonathan Toews, who’ve combined to win the previous 5 Selke trophies. Is this the year Koivu takes home that hardware? He almost definitely won’t, but he has a more compelling case than Ryan Suter has for the Norris, for example.
  • Aside from the Granlund line, the biggest stand-out of tonight was Jason Pominville. In just under 14 minutes, he scored a goal, fired 7 shots, including 3 Grade-A scoring chances. He converted just the one, but without him, Minnesota gets 0 points tonight. Thanks to him, they have 2. Good on him. The Wild need more of this, and fewer of those 19-game goalless streaks.

Minnesota closes out the (unofficial) first half of the season on Thursday, playing St. Louis, who just took a tough win against the Penguins. Stay tuned to Hockey Wilderness for all your Minnesota Wild analysis needs!