DALLAS – The Stars had just inched within a goal of the Wild and they weren’t going away, getting closer and closer to burying the equalizer.
So coach Bruce Boudreau decided to call a timeout.
“I wasn't yelling,” he said. “I was saying, 'We got this. Just let's calm down here and make the right plays.’ They're playing a little harder but if we make the right plays, we were going to be successful.”
But instead of correcting the mistakes that put the team on the brink of a tie, it kept making them.
And before long, the Wild’s lead had completely evaporated – an eye-popping 6-3 rally by the Stars Tuesday at American Airlines Center that stunned the visitors.
“We have guys that continually give it away,” Boudreau said. “It creates penalties, it goes the other way and consequently, it's in our net. If we had just kept getting it deep, and checking like we were doing, we would have been fine."
The Wild, though, was far from fine.
While the team’s season so far has been a miserable string of setbacks, this might have been the worst because of how steep the fall was.
Through the first 39 minutes, the team had the edge and it was the Stars who looked out of sync. This mismatch resulted in a well-deserved 3-0 lead.
Maybe another goal or two would have knocked the Stars out, but tighter defense was probably all it would have taken – especially late in the second to preserve that score.
Instead, Dallas scored in the final minute to gain some life and set up a takeover in the third.
“They had some momentum, but we just sat back,” winger Jason Zucker said. “I don't think we pressured. We just chipped the puck, and they changed and came full speed at us again and they would be in the zone for a minute and we would chip it and change. It was a cycle. That's it.”
The next three Stars goals, which flipped a 3-1 deficit into a 4-3 advantage, went off Wild players before going into the net. But there were breakdowns that led to these unfortunate bounces.
On the game-tying goal, which clipped winger Jordan Greenway’s stick, defenseman Carson Soucy failed to get the puck deep after carrying it out of the Wild zone. That enabled the Stars to transition the other way and eventually capitalize.
“We go right out there, make a bad play, take a penalty, make a bad play, don't get it deep from a guy [Soucy] that has played great for us, but there was no reason to try and carry it over the blue line,” Boudreau said. “And then they just had the adrenaline, the crowd and everything else.”
This was a familiar position for the Wild, with teams regularly seizing control of games by scoring in rapid succession.
The tying and winning goals came just 1:55 apart.
“We have to figure it out,” Zucker said. “We have to learn how to let a goal happen and be able to push back and get the game back in our favor and not just keep sitting back and watching.”
Even though these situations keep happening to the Wild, it’s clear the team still hasn’t figured out a solution – a glitch that continues to expose the Wild’s vulnerability and, as Tuesday’s outcome proved, turn games against the team.
“I think guys grip the stick a little tight because it’s happened before,” defenseman Ryan Suter said. “I think when these things happen, you have to rely on your veteran players and the guys that feel comfortable in those situations, that have been through this. It’s a learning thing for a lot of us. We gotta be better.”