Your Minnesota Wild entered the evening with 6 games remaining in their regular season and a 3-point cushion over the St. Louis Blues for the final divisional playoff spot. The Dallas Stars entered the evening with 5 games remaining in their regular season, and 5 points in the hole for a wildcard playoff spot. The remaining points on the schedule for both teams have huge implications for the post-season, Tonight, the Stars and Wild faced off for the 1st game in a home-and-home series.
Things did not start out well for the Wild tonight as the Stars slowly started taking over the game pretty early. The Wild seemed to be a little tentative and were quickly back on their heels. The Stars forecheck was giving the Wild fits in trying to exit the zone which directly led to Nate Prosser turning the puck over to Tyler Seguin trying to feed the puck behind the net to Gustav Olofsson. Goose could have tried to do more to disrupt the play, but Seguin fed the loose puck out front where a streaking Jamie Benn fired a shot that beat Devan Dubnyk blocker side.
The Wild would continue their rocky start with a string of back-to-back penalties. The first, a holding call against Charlie Coyle and the second a high-sticking double minor awarded to Ryan Murphy. While the Stars would not light the lamp on their power play, the Wild would.
Mikael Granlund would get the scoring started for the Wild late in the first with a short-handed goal right off the bat on Murphy’s double-minor. Ryan Suter would fish the puck out of his defensive corner and chip it up the boards where Granlund was waiting, and it was off to the races. Granlund streaked up the wing with Mikko Koivu playing the bait guy up the middle. Granlund would not pass this one off though as he flipped a wrister past Kari Lehtonen to tie the game at 1. For Suter, it would mark his 44th assist on the season, a new career high for the veteran defensemen.
Heading into the 2nd period the Wild seemed to have found their legs. While the Seguin line was a menace all night for the Wild, they were shutting down everything else pretty well. The Wild would get their first power play of the evening, and it would bear fruit. Matt Dumba would unleash one of his patented Dumbombs from the top of the circle and Lehtonen didn’t stand a chance. Suter would gain another assist on the goal, and Jason Zucker would notch his 30th assist (to go with his 30 goals) on the season.
Zach Parise would follow up the Dumba goal with one of his own a minute later. Dumba set this whole thing up too with a great stretch pass up to Granlund. Granlund made a nifty move to drive toward the net and fed the puck across the slot where Parise skated in and popped the puck into a gaping net. Because everything comes in 3’s too, a minute and a half later we’d see yet another goal, but this time it was Devan Shore tipping in a Dan Hamhuis shot to bring the Stars back within striking distance.
The Wild would regain their 2-goal cushion late in the 2nd period as Jason Zucker would pocket his 31st puck on the season. It would be another power play goal for the Wild who have been just a lil’ snake-bitten on the PP as of late. The Wild turned around a short handed rush by the Stars and took the puck up the ice for a 3 on 2 rush. Dumba nearly lost the puck but was able to poke it over to Eric Staal who reversed the puck back past Dumba to Zucker. Zucker drilled it home as Lehtonen wasn’t able to get across the goal frame in time to make the stop. Dumba got his 2nd assist of the night and would add one more later. Along with his goal, Dumba would finish the game with 4 points.
The Wild played some pretty stifling defense into the 3rd period, and they had to as the Stars were desperate to make this a game again and keep their playoffs hopes alive. Devan Dubnyk would stop all 13 shots he faced in the 3rd period and Zach Parise would add an empty-netter at the end to send the Wild on to a 5-2 victory. The win gives the Wild a 5 point cushion over the idle Blues who will be in action tomorrow against the Vegas Golden Knights.
Next up for the Wild, a Saturday evening game against the Dallas Stars who are going to need a full scale miracle to make it into the playoffs at this point. The Wild still have not clinched their own playoff spot yet, but all signs are looking like they will make their 6th consecutive playoff appearance. It’s no time to rest as Dallas is bound to be fiesty if not for their playoff lives than to play spoiler for the Wild.