Stars Eliminate Wild in First Round of Playoffs

Stars Eliminate Wild in First Round of Playoffs
Credit: Tim Heitman / Dallas Stars

The Wild came out with the expected big push in front of their home crowd to start the game. But the Stars survived it. With Jake Oettinger solidly behind them, the Stars let them get their looks early. Once they were not successful, Dallas started to make their push.

The neutral zone play got better as the period went on. Many plays were cut off and turned up ice with support in the middle of the ice, and the Wild struggled to keep up.

Nowhere was that more obvious than when Roope Hintz took the puck in stride, completely turned ex-Stars defenseman John Klingberg inside out, and then shot on a sharp angle to the top of the net to give Dallas a 1-0 lead.

Now, the sequence directly before that goal turned out to be an indicator of the game as a whole. Jake Oettinger got a bit of puck luck and then let the guys in front of him do the work, and do the work they did. This might be the most defensively structured we've seen in front of the young netminder. They rarely had shifts where they got pinned in their own zone, the recipe for a lot of goals against this year. They were insanely relentless on the forecheck and the backcheck.

They played Stars hockey, and the Wild had no answer for it.

Evgenii Dadonov quietly went about his business once again, and Wyatt Johnston gave them the insurance goal that felt inevitable in the second period after the Stars outshot the Wild more than 11-0 at that point. His feed from behind the net to find Johnston left in a dangerous spot in the slot was a good heads-up play, and Johnston, who has had a lot of looks but hadn't hit the net yet, got his first career playoff game.

But you could see the moment where the collective souls of the Wild left their bodies. With under six seconds to go in the second period, they kind of gave up on the play, thinking there was no way that Mason Marchment could get there to let fly his breakaway chance. And yet, with 0.5 seconds remaining, he did just that.

Funnily enough, the big storyline this series had been special teams. Dallas did a lot of their damage on the power play, with Hintz also tacking on a shorthanded goal on the other side of the special teams ledger. But it wasn't a factor in any of the Stars' goals in Game 6. Every single one to put this game out of reach came at even strength.

Dallas was almost clinical in this game, but did get a little bit lackadasical in the third period to give Minnesota some hope. Oettinger's shoutout streak ended at just over 114 straight minutes, and the Wild poured the offense on the last six minutes of the game.

But Max Domi and Marchment combined for their second goal of the game to get the empty-netter and ice the game (and the series).

The Stars are on to the second round in their first year under Pete DeBoer. The mix of veterans and youth has been a revelation. There were handshakes, some for the first time in their NHL careers, and the team now awaits the winner of the Colorado Avalanche/Seattle Kraken series while the Wild will be doing a lot of questioning about their recent playoff performances.