Game 3 might prove to be the anomaly in this series between the Wild and Dallas in more ways than one. The season series between the teams to that point had been a tale of two types of play: the Stars were 10 goals better than the Wild through seven games (five regular-season, two playoffs). That 10-goal advantage was accounted for entirely by non 5-on-5 play; in even-strength situations, the Wild was even with Dallas.
So of course in Game 3 the Wild managed a 4-on-4 goal (the go-ahead tally by Jason Pominville), a crucial Mikko Koivu power play goal and then an empty-netter by Pominville to boot. That isn’t how the Wild is generally going to beat the Stars, if the season series to that point was an indication. So Game 4 figured to be a case where the Wild needed to win the 5-on-5 battle.
And the Wild did.
And the Wild still lost.
That will probably be the greatest frustration Minnesota takes out of this game. The Stars cashed in on both of their power play chances – the first goal coming barely 4 minutes after the Wild took the lead in the second period, and the second coming 3:10 after Charlie Coyle had made it 2-1. Ryan Suter expressed frustration over the Wild’s inability to stay out of the box in those momentum situations and failure to kill the penalties in both cases.
He should be frustrated, particularly since he was on the ice for the first Dallas power play goal and could have made a better effort to block the shot that resulted in the goal.
Five-on-five, the Wild was Dallas’ equal on the ice and was better on the scoreboard (2-1). But special teams told the entire story, providing Dallas the edge not only to go ahead but to stay ahead when the Wild couldn’t cash in on a late power play on which they played 6-on-4 with Devan Dubnyk pulled.
That’s been the story of the entire season series. Dallas has won seven of eight games, and the Wild still must feel like a lot of games have been right there for the taking.
But they’re all gone, and that leads to two major numbers stacked against the Wild.
*First, they must go on the road – where they are 3-14 in the playoffs over the past four seasons, compared to 9-6 at home.
*And they must face the reality that being down 3-1 in a series gives them, historically, less than a 10 percent chance of advancing whereas tied 2-2 is close to a 50-50 proposition.