Patrick Sharp felt a certain sense of familiarity Monday when he took the ice at Xcel Energy Center. He had seen the waving white towels and heard the din of a St. Paul playoff crowd before, when he faced the Wild in the NHL postseason while playing for Chicago.
This time, Sharp viewed a road game against the Wild through a fresh prism. The longtime Blackhawks winger and veteran of 132 NHL playoff games now plays for Dallas, lending his experience and guidance to a young roster. Monday, Sharp gave his team something more concrete as well: two goals in the first 4 minutes, 10 seconds, providing most of the offense in the Stars’ 5-3 loss.
Even in defeat, Sharp talked about how much fun it was to play in front of a loud and lively Minnesota crowd. After winning three Stanley Cups with Chicago, he’s enjoying his new role on a team that has made the postseason only twice in the past eight years.
“It was a great atmosphere out there,” said Sharp, who is tied for sixth among active players with 45 career postseason goals. “There was a lot of energy in the building. Looking up and down our bench, we were enjoying it.
“We haven’t been in that situation here with the Stars in a long time. Guys were thriving off it. We’re excited to get back at it for Game 4.”
Sharp, 34, now has nine goals and eight assists in 18 career playoff games against the Wild. He was traded to the Stars in July after 10 seasons in Chicago, and he fit in quickly, finishing fifth on the team with 55 points in the regular season and reaching the 20-goal mark for the eighth time.
The Stars benefited just as much from his wisdom and generosity. Dallas coach Lindy Ruff said Sharp has helped young teammates understand how to weather the ebbs and flows of the season, how to deal with success and how to handle anxiety during the playoffs.
“He’s been important throughout the year,” Ruff said. “Having him in the room is a big positive for us.”
Winger Jamie Benn and center Cody Eakin, who played on Sharp’s line Monday, have played in nine postseason games each. Benn, who assisted on Sharp’s second goal, called him a “been-there, done-that kind of guy” whose experience has been invaluable.
“He’s just a great guy to lean on in situations you’re going to go through during the playoffs,” Benn said. “He’s been through it all, and he’s got a lot of insight and little tips we can use throughout the playoffs. That’s definitely nice for a young group like we have.”
Sharp scored on a deflection only 26 seconds into Monday night’s game, then added a goal from the left circle at 4:10 of the first period. After the loss, his next task will be to get his team back on top of its game.
“It was a tough game out there,” he said. “Give [the Wild] credit. They played with a lot of speed and scored some timely goals.
“It was a fun game to be part of. We’ll take what we can as far as positives from this game and be ready for Game 4.”