ST. PAUL — The Wild did not win their game against the Dallas Stars in overtime on Sunday at Xcel Energy Center, but they also did not lose in the three-on-three extra session and these days that’s a big deal.
“At his point maybe getting through overtime is a win for us,” winger Zach Parise said following the Wild’s 3-2 shootout victory over the Dallas Stars.
Not only did the Wild get through the overtime, they outshot the Stars 3-1 during the five-minute period and looked as if they knew what they were doing. The same could not be said before Sunday as the Wild had gone 0-4 in overtime this season, dropping them to an embarrassing 12-32 since the NHL went to the three-on-three format in 2015-16.
So what changed on Sunday against a Dallas team that has plenty of skill? Parise pointed to Eric Staal winning the opening faceoff and the Wild getting control of the puck. While that was true, that explanation also was a bit simple. Goalie Alex Stalock elaborated a bit on something that has become a point of emphasis for the Wild. That was especially the case after the Wild dropped back-to-back overtime games on the road against Boston and the Rangers.
“We’ve had meetings in the morning in our video room and we’ve looked at clips,” Stalock said after stopping 26 shots. “We’ve really broken it down and said, ‘This is not an area where we play this style; this is not an area where do we this.’ I think it worked.”
Stalock played a key role in what appears to be a new overtime philosophy for Minnesota. An excellent puck handler and passer, Stalock took at least two long feeds from teammates that enabled the Wild to reset while maintaining possession.
“We’ve really sat down and discussed (overtime) because it’s an issue,” Stalock said. “With the two forwards and one (defenseman), you saw how dynamic some of our players can be in that setting now. Puck control is so huge. When guys are tired, too buy time (they can pass it back to me), and it causes confusion. … It’s good that we’re using everybody and it was fun to watch. We controlled the overtime.”
The Wild’s loss to the Rangers last Monday came only 32 seconds into overtime as Tony DeAngelo ripped a shot past Stalock. Boudreau had started Joel Eriksson Ek along with Jared Spurgeon and Ryan Suter in that loss and Suter was largely responsible for DeAngelo’s goal.
In that case, Boudreau thought it was best to start two defensemen against the Rangers’ skilled top three players. But on Sunday, Boudreau decided to try to match fire with fire and he skated two forwards and one defenseman throughout. Suter did not play until the third change, Parise had to wait until the fourth and Mikko Koivu never saw the ice. While Staal is a veteran, Wild coach Bruce Boudreau also started winger Kevin Fiala and defenseman Jonas Brodin.
This sounded much more like what Boudreau had said he planned to do earlier this season following an overtime loss, when he talked about using youth and speed over veterans.
“After the New York game, we had a good video session on the overtime,” Boudreau said. “(I won’t) say what we were talking about, but it was a good video session and we practiced it once we got back here. So I think we’re paying a little more attention to it because the guys were getting kind of fed up by what was going on with it.”
One thing the Wild did differently was collapse on the Stars as they entered the zone instead of giving them room to either pass or get off a shot.
The Wild got the victory, giving them points in nine consecutive games (6-0-3), when Koivu beat Stars goalie Ben Bishop on a backhand shot on Minnesota’s fourth attempt of the shootout. Corey Perry then missed on Dallas’ next attempt as the Wild pulled within two points of a wild card spot in the Western Conference playoff race.
It was Koivu’s first shootout goal since Oct. 6, 2018 against Vegas and came in his 1,000th NHL game and a game in which he picked up his 700th NHL point. Boudreau admitted he came close to not using Koivu in the shootout.
“I didn’t know what I was doing, quite frankly,” Boudreau said when asked about using the veteran. “Initially I wasn’t going to put him in because he hadn’t scored in the shootout in like two years. I figured he was rested because he didn’t play in overtime and it was his day so all the stars were shining in the right direction. So, go out there and win it.”
Koivu was mobbed on the bench by teammates after Perry’s miss as the Wild celebrated improving to 7-0-2 in their past nine at the X. This was a team that entered November with a 4-9 record.
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“It was a perfect ending,” said Parise, who tied the score at 2-2 with a power-play goal at 17:30 of the third period. “I think with him getting his 700th and then getting the game-winner in the shootout. If you saw the bench after, you could see how excited the guys were for him. It was great. It was the perfect ending to a special day for him.”
ODDS AND ENDS