DALLAS – Now this feels more like playoff hockey.
Testy exchanges, a 10-minute penalty for incitement, controversial goals, big hits, cuts caused by high sticks, bad blood brewing, a game of keepaway that lasted one full minute on a delayed penalty.
Act II of the Wild-Dallas Stars series Saturday night featured a little bit of everything. Well, except derogatory chants directed at Norm Green, but that will come once the series shifts to Minnesota this week.
The Wild finally looked like a willing participant after a no-show in Game 1, but the result was the same, leaving a mixture of optimism and anger in the locker room following a 2-1 loss at American Airlines Center.
“I thought overall our game was a lot better,” captain Mikko Koivu said.
Wild interim coach John Torchetti wrote down a checklist of things he wanted to see from his team after a dud in the series opener.
No. 1 on his list: intensity. More of it, specifically.
Intensity wasn’t a problem. The Wild battled tooth-and-nail until a frenzied attempt at a tying goal in the final seconds. Execution, not effort, was the culprit this time.
The Wild had its chances. Great chances. But too many missed opportunities combined with a lot of other, um, stuff contributed to a 0-2 series deficit heading home.
Stars coach Lindy Ruff accurately predicted a spirited response by the Wild after that Game 1 buzzkill.
“This is desperation time,” he said pregame. “And I expect to see their best.”
The Wild didn’t play its best, but the pushback left an impression that this series won’t be a leisurely walk in the park for the Stars after all.
Unlike the opener, Game 2 offered plenty of drama and subplots to digest.
The game included 60 hits, one of the most bizarre goals you’ll ever see and tempers flaring between the Wild and its new nemesis, Antoine Roussel, a Grade-A antagonist.
Roussel was at his pesky best, whacking Erik Haula with his stick on the first shift and then engaging Ryan Suter, Justin Fontaine and any other Wild player who came within his vicinity.
Almost fittingly, Roussel found himself in the middle of a controversial goal that left Wild players fuming as they packed their bags for a late-night flight home.
A deflected puck behind the Wild goal landed at Roussel’s feet. He kicked the puck, which popped up and over the backside of the goal, landing on Devan Dubnyk’s back.
Dubynk moved back into the goal, carrying the puck with him as he dislodged the net from its moorings. On-ice officials initially ruled no goal. Replay officials, however, changed the call, giving the Stars a 1-0 lead.
Roussel’s kick was not a challengeable play. Dubnyk started his postgame media session by saying he wouldn’t talk about the goal … then proceeded to unload on NHL replay officials, calling the overturn “mind-blowing,” “embarrassing” and “crazy.”
“The ref made the right call and somehow they have enough to overturn it in Toronto,” he said.
The Wild had plenty of chances to overcome that moment, especially Mikael Granlund, who had an awful time with the puck on his stick in scoring position.
Granlund gagged on three scoring chances in the first period alone, shanking one wide of the goal from point-blank range.
He also turned a 3-on-1 shorthanded rush by the Wild into nothing because he’s so slow to shoot the puck.
It was a strange, eventful game, which included a misconduct penalty on Wild winger Ryan Carter for something called incitement, a rather serious sounding act.
“I don’t know what that penalty is,” Carter said.
That makes two of us.
Carter said the penalty stemmed from “a little incident” he had with Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen in front of the benches.
Shouldn’t playoff hockey include a little incitement?
The Wild made a final push, but the Stars milked one valuable minute off the clock with a stall tactic on a delayed penalty.
It looked like a game of keepaway at recess.
“That was unscripted,” Ruff said.
The whole game felt that way.
Chip Scoggins firstname.lastname@example.org