The Wild were able to extend their series with the Stars in overtime, 5-4 Friday night. Anyone that had questions about Minnesota's ability to compete with the high-flying Stars has certainly had those questions answered.
It was a very competitive hockey game. Lead changes and transition hockey was seen throughout, and it made for some excellent entertainment. There is nothing like overtime Stanley Cup Playoff hockey and the teams played into extra time for the first time this series.
Minnesota came out pressing high and skating well in the first period. Dallas came out flat. When you combine those two things, it was an ugly first frame. Minnesota was able to score twice, both times including some form of a turnover or puck gaffe. Alex Goligoski turned the puck over and Granlund was able to stuff home the first, and some guy named Jordan Schroeder scored the Wild's second goal.
The period was not over and Dallas began to find their rhythm. Johnny Oduya scored on a slap shot form the top of the circle. Devan Dubnyk was screened, but it was a well placed effort. Ales Hemsky deserves credit on the goal for driving the net on his zone entry and occupying the defensive pairing.
In the second period the teams strapped on their helmets and grabbed their hockey sticks, but by the time they reached the ice, a track meet had broken out. Both teams were flying. Fancy dekes, odd-man rushes, hits, blocked shots, you name it. The sport was on perfect display. The game had everything you could ask for in the second period, except a goal. Mattias Janmark got a look at the end of the period, but the window was small and closing fast. It was too much to ask of young Janmark, and the score was still 2-1 Wild entering the final 20 minutes.
The third started with another spasm of offense. Jamie Benn undressed Dubnyk and slid it inside the far post. The score wasn't level for long. Nino Niederreiter burst through the Klingberg and Goligoski pairing and beat Niemi like a rented mule. It was 3-2 Minnesota, and the goal kind of felt like a punch in the stomach.
About halfway through the third, Dallas began to lean on the Wild again. The shots were coming by the bushel, but Dubnyk was resisting admirably. The Stars finally broke the seal and scored twice in quick succession. First, it was Jason Spezza on a wrap around to the far post that Dubnyk will want to have back, and the second was redemption for Alex Goligoski.
The stage was set. The score was 4-3 Dallas in an elimination game in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Would the team plagued by "poor goaltending" and "bad defense" be able to hold the fort?
Dallas was able to pin the Wild in their own end and out shoot the Wild during the early stages of their push for an equalizer. That wouldn't last forever and the Wild started to press. The crowd was on their feet, and the Wild threw the kitchen sink at the Stars desperate defenders.
Despite the best efforts of the Stars to buckle down defensively, with 3 minutes to play the Wild captain Mikko Koivu went bar down on Niemi. The pass came from below the net, and Niemi looked small in goal. The score was tied and bonus hockey was almost a guarantee.
The game had really started opening up late late in regulation, but stop and start characterized the start of overtime. Dallas was taking the initiative early, but with only 5 minutes played in the extra session, Koivu scored his second of the night and sent Stars' fans home in tears.
It must be said that the Wild's best players played well tonight. Even Dubynk who gave up 4 goals on 41 shots made some huge stops for Minnesota when they needed him the most.
Antti Niemi looked shaky, but he wasn't seeing a lot of rubber. The final shot clock was 41-24 Dallas, and the team will be disappointed to allow 5 goals on so few of chances.
By many measurable statistics tonight, the Stars were the better team. But what has plagued this team for 2 years came back to show it's ugly face again tonight. Inopportune turnovers and poor goaltending sunk the ship.
Luckily for Dallas, they will get two more chances to tie the knot on this series. Up 3-2, the series will shift back to Minnesota for an important sixth game. Overtime losses are like a punch in the stomach, and the Stars will be hoping to respond in the best way on Sunday afternoon.