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Preview: Minnesota Wild must set tone from outset in Game 3

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Getting an early jump could never hurt.

Minnesota Wild v Vancouver Canucks - Two Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images

If there’s one thing we all can be joyful about when going into Game 3, it’s the fact that we won’t have to stay up into the late hours of the night to see the action. But of course, there always seems to be a caveat as many will now have to watch today’s contest while at work.

But, oh wait — Ms. Rona may have thrown a wretch into that also.

On the complete opposite side of the card for the day’s proceedings, the Minnesota Wild and Vancouver Canucks will take to the ice inside of Rogers Place on Thursday afternoon at 1:30 p.m. CT deadlocked at one game apiece after the clubs traded victories in the first two contests of the best-of-five Stanley Cup play-in series.

And while the first two games may have begun at a late hour, the opening goals in both contests have come early after the opening horn. In Game 1, Minnesota found the back of the net on their first power-play attempt of the evening and just under three minutes into the game. But Vancouver topped that effort in Game 2, notching their first tally only a mere 24 seconds into the contest.

Th team that scored first in each respective game eventually found its way to victory. However, maybe it was the timing of the goals that really set the tone for both contests.

For example, Vancouver never found its way back after Minnesota struck early in Game 1. And while Minnesota evened the score in the later stages of the opening frame in Game 2, that goal was shorthanded and the Wild played from behind for most of the game before a late rally on two goals from Kevin Fiala.

Setting and keeping the tone is key, and the team on the opposite side of momentum will be on the fast track to viewing the rest of the playoffs from home. Taking advantage of the opponent’s mistakes and in turn not making mistakes is a great recipe for success, as prime examples of this have been placed under the spotlight thus far.

The Wild turned two Canucks penalties in Game 1 into goals, which placed them comfortably ahead en route to a victory.

But the script flipped in Game 2, as Vancouver would score their game-winning goal on the power play before the midway point of the final frame. Imagine the real momentum shift if Brad Hunt was never called for slashing. Perhaps there would have been a different outcome, and we could possibly be talking about a completely different series. This is the great (and also harsh) thing about the playoffs.

While Game 3 may not be a “must-win” on paper, as elimination is not at stake, that doesn’t at all take away from its importance. The Wild need to find a way to win two more games out of three to advance. Having a cushion of at least two more games after a potential victory in Game 3 is a much nicer scenario than having to win two in a row.

So yeah. Every game from here on out is indeed a must-win.

Our friends at MoneyPuck say the Wild hold a good shot at regaining the series lead, as they give Minnesota a 56.4 percent chance of victory in the contest.

But numbers are only numbers, and simply put, the Wild have to be stellar in all facets if they want to regain control in this series. They will have to come out as a team looking to win and not a team playing not to lose.

Burning Questions

1. Can Kevin Fiala keep up the wonderful run and get on the board?

We’ve said it time and time again — Kevin Fiala is becoming a legitimate star in the NHL right before our eyes. He led the team in points during the regular season and is continuing to shine in the playoffs. Stars perform in big-time moments, and the Wild will need him to have a stellar performance if they wish to get the win in Game 3. Others have contributed to the offensive effort in the series, but Fiala is the focal point and will need to lead the way.

2. Can the Wild not commit mistakes and capitalize on others?

Sacrificing seven power-play opportunities to a team with a strong offense is not a recipe for success. Simply put, the Wild will have to play tough, hard-nosed defense, but also be smart in doing it. On the other hand, Minnesota will need to take the same route travelled in Game 1, as their capitalization on Vancouver’s mishaps led to their victory. The Wild didn’t take advantage of six power-play chances in Game 2, and this will have to change for the better moving forward.

3. Will the Wild strike first and set the tone?

So far in the series, the team that scores first in each game has wound up getting the W. Can Minnesota jump out to an early lead and possibly even extend it to a multi-goal advantage en route to a victory?