For the seventh time in its past eight playoff series, the Wild won a Game 3, but tonight was in the most unexpected fashion possible.
When you give up two goals 4:10 in, the old cliché said in locker rooms is, “There was still a lot of hockey left.”
But that’s easier said than done when you’ve lost seven in a row, are fragile and your home fans are restless and ticked the way the season has gone pear shaped with no wins in the month of April.
However, it was impressive the way the fans never turned on the Wild tonight. Maybe it was because the start – being scored on 26 seconds in and again less than four minutes later on Patrick Sharp’s second goal -- was so stunning. But the Wild slowly got its game together and then got a huge momentum-turning goal by Chris Porter in the waning seconds of the period.
The Wild was fast, physical and defensively hounded the puck.
It came to light after the game that John Torchetti, who visibly challenged Mikko Koivu on the ice this morning, then challenged a “few of us” in the locker room during the first intermission.
One was clearly Jason Pominville because the “few of us” quote came out of his mouth. The Wild didn’t give up a shot in the first 8:08 of the second, Erik Haula tied the score off a Pominville setup and then Pominville buried Nino Niederreiter’s rebound in the final minute of the period.
The Wild got a huge kill to start the third and Koivu scored the eventual winner on a power play at the 6:26 mark. Pominville later added an empty-netter for the Wild’s first comeback from two goals down to win since Game 7 of the 2003 conference semis in Vancouver.
The Wild got some big efforts tonight. David Jones came through with some big third-period shifts physically. He had four hits and at one point crushed Jamie Benn. Mikael Granlund worked his butt off all game. Zac Dalpe supplied some good shifts. Even Kurtis Gabriel almost scored his first playoff goal in his debut, causing a reaction from the minor-league Black Aces that was hilarious.
Niederreiter, Haula and Pominville combined for seven points.
As always, please read the gamer and all our Star Tribune coverage on startribune.com/wild, but here’s some postgame stuff and special thanks to those who transcribed in a little quote transcription pool we’ve got going on.
“We just did a good job getting back in the game. Our fans did a great job. I know they were upset at first, but they certainly got behind us. They were awesome, and that's what we need next game. We need that support, and the trust. That's what it's all about. It's a two-way game for us and them
On what was said after the first: “A few things; 'Let's get going.' We were still in the game. I liked our game probably the last seven minutes. But I just wanted to go harder. We have to give up more for each other, and that’s the bottom line. That's how you win in the playoffs. You have to sacrifice something, and that's what it's all about.
On Haula line: I've seen it the whole time I've been here, just some nights they don't get to score. It's the NHL. You're not going to be able to score every night in the NHL; it's the greatest league in the world. But you have to work in those situations. They were getting situations, they just weren't going in. They just have to stick to their game, stick to their game, and good things will happen.
On Porter: Portsy is a kid that's whaling out there. He's playing good, and he's playing with a lot of confidence, and he's playing with a lot of speed. When you're playing with a lot of speed you're not worrying about systems because you know you're going to get there, and he's playing confident. It's a big goal because he kept pressuring, got a good opportunity, got in front, and we got a big goal.
On Mikko’s big celebration: “Mikko's our leader. LHe's a guy that we have to count on. Our leaders, we have to count on our leaders. We're short one of them, but Pommy is one of leaders, Sutsy is one of our leaders, and we have to keep upping our games as the games go on. We just can't stay at the same level. You can't have a ceiling to your game. That's what it's all about.”
Importance of Haula being back: “ Just skating. He gives us so much confidence on the penalty kill, down low, exits, speed, and that line really works well. They complement each other, they talk on the bench, they make adjustments as they go along, and they do a really good job. They play for each other, and that's why they're a very successful line.”
On getting in Lehtonen’s grill: “The bottom-line in the whole league is you have to get traffic. You have to make sure he can't see. He has to work around bodies, and not having chances to control the rebounds with a glove save, or a pad save to the corner. We just have to keep making sure that we have somebody going to that net, and we take away his eyes.
On not sitting back in the third: “It was awesome. To me, that's what you play the game for, right? You want to be in a tough situation. Games that are high-pace, high-speed, you have to be able to play the game fast, think the game fast while it's going on, good changes, smart decisions, and just play fast. That's our team we've had when I first got here, and I really liked how we played the game.
On the crowd: That was a big response for our fans. They deserved that type of play, and we want to come out again, and if they come out and support us like that, we want to give them a hard game again.
On physicality: “I loved that. That's hockey. We need more of it, and that's the bottom-line.”
On challenging Koivu on the ice this morning: “I always ask for it. I'm always talking about it. Leadership is there, and no problem at all, and the emotion is there. It's just some nights it doesn't work. I understand that. Sometimes the game doesn't go your way, but he showed up big tonight, and I'm sure he'll show up big again. He showed up good in Game 2. Game 2 could have went either way if we got that goal back. Now we just have to bounce back, and come out with a better first period. That's probably one of our, not strongest first periods that we've had, and we have to get better focus, and I have to do a better job moving forward making sure they’re focused in the first five minutes.
“We threw the kitchen sink at them. We got a huge goal there when Ports scored a really nice goal, got the crowd going and got some energy from that. Then I feel like from there, we slowly started playing better and taking the game over.”
What leadership says:
“Just keeping the locker room calm, everybody’s head is up, everybody is calm, saying the right things in here and like I said, we believe in here. We know what kind team we are when we play great, and I feel like we showed a bunch of glimpses of that today where we were playing really well. We have to take that out of video we watch where we play really well and try to execute.”
What was said after one:
“Just positive. It was 2-1, 40 minutes of hockey left. There’s really not much [to say], everybody knows what to do, everybody knows when we’re playing well and everyone knows what it looks like. Leaders calm the group down and then we go.”
On maintaining this for Game 4:
“What helps, I feel, our game is when we are able to break the puck out, get some speed and put their [defensemen] on their heels. That way we get some pucks back, we get some zone time, and I feel like that’s a huge asset for us.”
“It’s not always easy, sometimes it feels like pucks are bouncing everywhere. The start wasn’t great, we kept with it, we got a lot better and we played really well. Now hopefully Wednesday, we can put together a 60-minute effort together.”
Confidence on getting Porter’s goal in final minute of period coming into the dressing room:
“It’s a lot of energy , you hear the crowd going, it was pretty quiet before that. Got them going, it’s a huge asset for us and just positive in here.”
Hear Porter’s stick:
“He gave me kind of a, I don’t know if he tapped or whatever, but he kinda asked for the puck. It was a great tip, I haven’t seen a tip like that, it’s hard to do. It’s kinda like he took a wrist shot in. He did a great job.”
(third period) I wasn’t worried about it. I just felt like the way things were going tonight guys were getting their legs and doing what we needed to do. I had a lot of confidence that we were going to come out in the third and even get another one and we were able to do that.
(after one) We were obviously able to get a goal to make it a one-goal game but we understand that we’ve got to be better. We’ve got to work. There’s no way to get wins in here other than go out and work for it. That’s what (Torchetti) challenged us with and the response was great.
(Porter goal) It’s huge. From that point on there’s lots of game left and you can just go about your game. You don’t need to feel like you have to take chances or try different things. We got things going really well in the last half of the first period and you cut it to one and you can just feel like you need to continue to build your game and get more, and that’s what we did.
That’s why we love playing here. Obviously we gave everybody a scare at the start of the game but to give these fans a reason to cheer and cheer as loud as they did, that’s why we love playing here.
(third Dallas goal) I couldn’t move my arm. The puck was coming at my forehead, the guy’s leaning on my arm. I feel like I have to ask you guys, am I being crazy? I feel the definition is I’m supposed to be able to do my job. I watched the replay. I don’t understand how…It doesn’t matter if the puck took a funny bounce and went in the other side. You don’t get to decide if I would’ve saved it or not. The simple fact is I couldn’t do my job.
I think we came into the series with confidence knowing that’s how we need to play and that’s how we’re capable of playing, fast and hard, taking the body and turning pucks over. That’s the game we’re going to need to play. Tonight we had to. We had no choice but to get to that. We spotted them two goals but we were able to get to that, and that should give us a lot of confidence going forward. If we play like that, we have a real good shot.
(long losing streak) In playoffs you’re able to go game to game and understand that each game you must win. It’s important to get that winning feeling and try to get rolling. Obviously we’ve been a little streaky, back and forth down the stretch. So we gather up that winning feeling and try to hold onto it.
I was just letting him know that I was open. We’d had a good shift there to start, (Fontaine) and (Suter) and (Haula) all had a chance at it early down low and I didn’t know if it was going to get there. Haulsy kind of fumbled it on the blue line and made a great play over there and I was fortunate to put it in.
I just kind of gripped the stick and swung it like a golf club and fortunate for me it did find the back. We did build some momentum after that.
We did a great job as a team re-grouping after they scored two there. Not the start we wanted. We wanted to get the crowd into it early. But we did a great job of settling down and getting the fans back into it. They kind of carried us there in the second and third.
(Haula) He’s a big piece. A lot of speed, great (penalty killer), shut-down kind of player. You can see that line tonight carried us as well.
Talk to you after Tuesday’s practices.