ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) Given a pair of quick goals by Patrick Sharp, the Dallas Stars pushed the cruise-control button.
Jason Pominville and the Minnesota Wild raced past them and surged back into the series.
Pominville scored twice and had an assist for the Wild, and Minnesota roared back from an early two-goal deficit for a 5-3 victory on Monday night that sliced the Stars’ advantage in the Western Conference quarterfinals to 2-1.
“That was a nice way to respond,” said Pominville, who scored with 47 seconds left in the second period to give the Wild their first postseason lead in seven games, a span of nearly 400 minutes, and added an empty-netter in the closing minutes.
Chris Porter put the Wild on the board in the final minute of the first period for their first even-strength goal of the series. Erik Haulaadded a goal and an assist, Mikko Koivu scored on a power play in the third period and the Wild stopped a seven-game losing streak that started on March 31.
“We threw the kitchen sink at them,” Haula said.
Game 4 is in Minnesota on Wednesday night, and Game 5 will be back in Dallas on Friday night.
“It could be a heck of a series. The parity in this league is incredible, and if you don’t play well you’re not going to win,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said.
Sharp scored 26 seconds into the game and again less than 4 minutes later for the Stars, but the Wild controlled the action after that and finished with a 25-17 shots-on-goal advantage.
The Stars went nearly 50 minutes without scoring until the puck took a pinball-like path to the net off Colton Sceviour with 6:15 remaining to cut the lead to 4-3.
“They played with a lot of speed and scored some timely goals,” Sharp said. “You could tell that they fed off the energy of their fans. It was a fun game to be a part of, so we’ll take what we can as far as positives from this game.”
Sharp was uncovered in the slot when he converted a midair tip of Alex Goligoski‘s shot into a crowd-silencing score, with many of the customers not yet settled in their seats. The quiet hung in the arena air when Sharp, the 14-year veteran in his first season with the Stars, turned a breakaway into a 2-0 lead with his low shot that slipped under goalie Devan Dubnyk‘s glove.
In 18 career postseason games against Minnesota, Sharp has nine goals and eight assists. The Wild needed a few minutes to recover, but by the second half of the first period they were in clear control.
Porter muscled his stick in front of Goligoski’s to redirect a shot by Haula and give Minnesota a critical goal with 50 seconds left before the first intermission.
Interim coach John Torchetti put journeymen forwards Kurtis Gabriel and Zac Dalpe on the fourth line and scratchedRyan Carter and Jarret Stoll, the only players on the roster who’ve won a Stanley Cup. Torchetti has been calling for more crashing the net, and the Wild obliged.
Haula tipped in Pominville’s shot from the boards behind the circle in the second period to tie the game. Then just before the second intermission, Pominville charged toward the crease to chip in the rebound of Nino Niederreiter‘s shot during a 4-on-4 created by dual penalties.
“That should give us a lot of confidence going forward,” Dubnyk said. “If we play like that, we have a real good shot.”
As it was down the stretch of the regular season, the Niederreiter-Haula-Pominville line was the catalyst on both ends of the ice for the Wild, helping keep Stars leading scorer Jamie Benn in check while producing a total of seven points on the night.
“We just made too many mistakes,” Benn said.
NOTES: Sharp has five goals in eight career postseason games at Minnesota. He has 45 goals in 132 playoff games, by far the most on the Stars roster. … After stopping 22 of 22 shots in Game 1 and 25 of 26 in Game 2, Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen had only 20 saves on 24 tries. Ruff said he’s “not even close to that decision” about whether Lehtonen or Antti Niemi will start in Game 4. … Dubnyk stopped 14 of 17 shots. … This was the first playoff game in Minnesota for the Stars franchise since 1992, when it played as the North Stars and lost in a first-round series to Detroit. … The Wild are 13-14 at home in the playoffs in their history, but they’re 8-4 there over the last two years. … Haula has six goals and four assists in 17 career postseason games.