My Thoughts on the Stars' Two Road Games in St. Paul
The Dallas Stars and Minnesota Wild's first-round series shifted to the Xcel Energy Center for Game 3 on Friday night. The Stars looked to make it two wins in a row, while the Wild had a home-ice advantage. The Wild benefited from home ice with a 5-1 win and earned a 2-1 series lead. Wild goaltender Filip Gustavsson made 23 saves for a win, while Stars goaltender Jake Oettinger stopped 20 shots in a losing effort. Stars alternate captain and forward Joe Pavelski didn't travel with the Stars for Games 3 and 4, as he was still in concussion protocol after a crushing hit from Matt Dumba in Game 1. The audience's applause was so loud that it was hard to hear the Wild's PA announcer, Adam Abrams, announce the starting lineup. Much of the audience was Wild fans, as I saw only a handful of Stars fans at the Xcel Energy Center. Things got chippy in the first period. Matt Dumba, who's [arguably] Public Enemy No. 1, stood up for himself — and perhaps his team — with his physical play. Joel Eriksson Ek played only 19 seconds on the opening shift before limping after no contact. Eriksson Ek didn't return. The Wild opened the scoring in front of the home crowd. Mats Zuccarello, a former Dallas Star, scored his first of the postseason for a 1-0 lead at 16:45. The Wild led 1-0 after 20 minutes. The second period featured ups and downs. Marcus Johansson made it 2-0 Wild with his second of the postseason 2:14 into the second period. Luke Glendening cut the lead in half, 2-1, just 11 seconds later with his first of the postseason. Marcus Foligno scored a power-play goal, his first in the postseason, at 11:24 of the second period. The Foligno goal was reviewed for a high stick. After further review, Foligno's deflection was at the crossbar, his goal was good, and the Wild took a 3-1 lead. The Wild held onto a 3-1 lead after 40 minutes. The third period was do-or-die time for the Stars, but the Wild dominated and prevailed. There was a fight between Mats Zuccarello and Colin Miller as Miller ripped off Zuccarello's helmet midway through the third period. The NHL, however, handed minor penalties to both players for roughing. Both penalties expired, the game resumed to 5-on-5, and Zuccarello gave the Wild a 4-1 lead at 14:07 by scoring his second of the game and the postseason. Ryan Hartman capped off the scoring with his second of the postseason and extended the Wild's lead to 5-1 at 18:10. Whether you like Hartman or not, you shouldn't underestimate him and his aggressive offense skill and responsible defensive game. The Stars had a chance to right the ship in Game 4 at the Xcel Energy Center on Sunday. And the Stars did, as they defeated the Wild 3-2 ahead of a sellout crowd. Stars goaltender Jake Oettinger made 32 saves for a win, while Wild goaltender Filip Gustavsson made 21 saves in a losing effort. The Stars looked like a different team on Sunday. Although both teams played a scoreless first period, the first 15 minutes were arguably full-strength. The Stars' passing could've been better, though. The second period remained scoreless for the most part, but it was just as awesome. Oettinger made a tremendous save to stop Marcus Foligno's shot midway through the second period. Tyler Seguin scored his second of the postseason on the power play and got the Stars on the board 1-0 at 15:42 of the second period. The Stars led 1-0 after 40 minutes. The third period was crunch time for the Stars. Evgenii Dadonov made it 2-0 Stars with his third of the postseason 3:05 into the third period. John Klingberg cut the lead in half, 2-1, 2:53 later. The third period didn't come without some controversy. Marcus Foligno got a minor penalty for tripping Mason Marchment, crashed into a wall, and started bleeding. Moreover, Foligno got a minor for interference on a player that dispatched the puck and a minor penalty for tripping on a bodycheck on a guy that tried to get out of the way. Tyler Seguin scored his third of the postseason and second of the game on the power play to extend the Stars' lead to 3-1 at 16:29. But the Wild made it a one-goal game on Frederick Gaudreau's second of the season on the power play at 18:40. The Stars held on for a 3-2 win in Game 4 to tie the series 2-2. Jake Oettinger's family gave him a round of applause, which was well-deserved. Oettinger hails from Lakeville, Minn., around 29 miles from St. Paul. Game 5 will be in Dallas on Tuesday at 7:00 pm Central.