DALLAS – There’s no 3-on-3 in Stanley Cup playoff overtime.
Dallas won three of those this season against the Wild, but Friday night in what could have been a season-ending Game 5, captain Mikko Koivu, who forced overtime in the final minutes of the third period, scored his first career playoff overtime winner 4 minutes, 55 seconds in for a season-saving 5-4 Wild victory.
Game 6 will be Sunday afternoon at Xcel Energy Center.
“[Koivu’s] overall game is as good as it gets,” said goalie Devan Dubnyk, who actually delayed a few seconds before sprinting the length of the ice to celebrate with his teammates because he wasn’t positive Koivu’s redirection of Ryan Suter’s point shot actually found the back of the net. “For him to step up like that for us is pretty awesome.”
The Wild played with everybody’s emotions all season long, so why not in Game 5?
In the third period of a potential elimination game, the Wild gave up the tying goal one minute into the period, responded with the go-ahead goal 50 seconds later and then saw that one-goal lead turn into a one-goal deficit in a shocking 28-second span.
“It was nuts,” Suter said of the roller coaster period that almost resembled the Wild’s up-and-down season.
“A lot happened that period,” added Mikael Granlund, who scored the game’s opening goal and assisted on Koivu’s tying goal with 3:09 left after chasing down his own dump-in with impressive hustle.
The Wild, which got 37 saves from Dubnyk and blocked a franchise-record 34 shots, won for a fifth time in its past 28 games at Dallas and improved to 8-8 all-time in playoff overtimes and 10-6 in elimination games.
“I can’t even believe they pay me for this job,” said John Torchetti, who might have been coaching his last game had the Wild lost. “It’s so much fun. That’s what it’s all about.”
Koivu’s overtime winner, which capped his first career two-goal playoff game, came 13 years to day after his former linemate and current assistant coach Andrew Brunette scored a Game 7 overtime dagger in Colorado to complete a 3-1 series’ comeback for the Wild.
The Wild hopes it has started the path to rallying from a 3-1 deficit for the third time in history.
“We knew we deserved that one. We battled all night,” said Charlie Coyle. “We’re feeling good. That’s obviously a huge win at a desperate time. We’re pretty pumped.”
The Wild got goals 1:44 apart within the first 5:16 of the game by Granlund and Jordan Schroeder. Schroeder’s first career playoff goal came in his series debut after being scratched in Games 1 through 4.
But the Wild slowly lost momentum and ultimately saw that lead cut in half by Johnny Oduya late in the first.
Dubnyk made 11 saves in the second period, but Stars captain Jamie Benn extended his point streak against the Wild to 13 games by scoring a minute into the third. But Niederreiter answered 50 seconds later by catching Jared Spurgeon’s headman pass and scoring on a delayed-penalty breakaway.
But midway through the period, Jason Spezza and Grand Rapids, Minn., native and former Gophers defenseman Alex Goligoski scored 28 seconds apart to disintegrate the one-goal lead.
“It was weird,” Dubnyk said. “I liked the response out of everybody. You can sense from yourself and other guys if guys start to get nervous and tense and I didn’t really feel that.
“It was a strange period obviously. But we didn’t get uptight. We kept our heads down and went and got a huge play.”
Koivu said it was a huge learning lesson.
“You’ve just got to respond the right way,” Koivu said.
Added Torchetti, “Now we’ve got to go home and try and find a way to get back to Dallas.”