The Stars exhaled in Game 3. It was clear from the press box that when they scored twice in the first four minutes of the game, their brains made a decision _ possibly at a level below their inner dialogue, but a decision nonetheless. They decided that they were in control and didn't need to exert maximum effort.
It's human nature. It might even be a defense mechanism ingrained through years of sports. You get a lead and you don't want to take too many risks. You get a lead and you don't want to pour it on. You get a lead and you think the job is done.
Pick your poison, but there is a real reaction that you go through as an individual, and it spreads throughout your team.
These "mental twists and turns," Heika writes, are why we love sports. But getting those synapses under control will be key if the Stars want to take a 3-1 lead in the series.
There's more on brains at the link. [SportsDayDFW]
Game 4 is tonight at 8:30 p.m. Y'all ready?
Before the puck drops, check out Mark Stepneski's preview and catch up on yesterday's practice updates. For starters, Jamie Benn took a maintenance day (but Lindy Ruff says don't worry), and Kris Russell is questionable. [Stars Inside Edge]
Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi are playing tricks on us.
Both goalies came off at the exact same time after practice. "That wasn't planned. It just happened," Lehtonen said with a smile.— Mike Heika (@MikeHeika) April 19, 2016
If you've been wondering what the Stars should take away from their Game 3 loss, DBD's Derek has you covered. [The Hockey Writers]
Patrick Sharp and his playoff experience continue to be a boon for the Stars. [Star Tribune]
Zach Parise and Thomas Vanek are inching toward their return for the Wild.
Good news on the #MNWild injury front today: Zach Parise skated on his own this morning and Thomas Vanek is skating with teammates now.— Chad Graff (@ChadGraff) April 19, 2016
The folks at Hockey Wilderness talk about what has made Minnesota's third line of Erik Haula, Jason Pominville, and Nino Niederreiter so effective against the Stars. [Hockey Wilderness]
Also from behind enemy lines: Wild captain Mikko Koivu stepped up in Game 3, and his leadership made all the difference for his team. [HW]
Don't worry, there are still more playoff predictions for you to make. (Better get everything right this time, though.)
Elsewhere, in the playoffs.
- The Lightning beat the Red Wings 3-2 to take a 3-1 series lead. Jonathan Drouin racked up three assists in the game. [Winging It in Motown]
- The Ducks avoided falling into a 3-0 hole by shutting out the Predators 3-0. [On The Forecheck]
- Matt Murray made his playoff debut for the Penguins, who defeated the Rangers 3-1 to take a 2-1 series lead. The game also featured yet another coach's challenge, much to the chagrin of New York fans, who watched a goal called back due to offsides. [Pensburgh]
- The Blues beat the Blackhawks 3-2, which means Chicago will head into a must-win Game 5 on Thursday. [Second City Hockey]
Without any Canadian teams to watch, playoff viewership is way down in Canada. Like 61 percent down. [The Hockey News]
The Flyers will be without Pierre-Edouard Bellemare for Game 4.
Philadelphia's Pierre-Edouard Bellemare suspended 1 game for checking from behind on Dmitry Orlov. Video: https://t.co/yeyVfkLb4t— NHL Player Safety (@NHLPlayerSafety) April 19, 2016
And speaking of Philly, the team's fans have lost their right to have nice things. [TSN]
At The Wall Street Journal, Tom Perrotta makes the case for why the one-timer is the most important shot in hockey. [Wall Street Journal]
In honor of Matt Murray's debut, Sportsnet counts down the five youngest netminders to make their first playoff start. Former North Stars goalie Don Beaupre makes the cut. [Sportsnet]
Tommy Olczyk, son of Eddie Olczyk, talks about his experience playing hockey at Penn State.
In KHL news, Alex Semin and the Metallurg Magnitogorsk won the Gagarin Cup in a come-from-behind Game 7 victory. [Russian Machine Never Breaks]
And finally, come watch the game with your people.