Wild dominate in 5-1 win over Dallas Stars to take 2-1 series lead

Mats Zuccarello #36 of the Minnesota Wild scores a goal in the first period of Game Three of the First Round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Dallas Stars at Xcel Energy Center on April 21, 2023 in St Paul, Minnesota.  ((Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images))

The Minnesota Wild got a bounce back performance in a 5-1 win over the Dallas Stars Friday night at Xcel Energy Center, and now lead the best-of-seven series 2-1 with Game 4 set for Sunday night in St. Paul.

The Wild got two goals from Mats Zuccarello, a goal from Marcus Johansson, a power-play goal from Marcus Foligno and an empty-net goal from Ryan Hartman, who had a three-point night. After a career-high 51 saves in 3-2 win in Game 1, Filip Gustavsson sat and watched Game 2 as Marc-Andre Fleury struggled in net in a 7-3 loss.

After Friday night, there shouldn’t be a question of who is in net the remainder of the series. Gustavsson got the Game 3 start and finished with 23 saves on 24 shots. The Wild also lost top center Joel Eriksson Ek just 19 seconds into the game, but had others step up in a much-needed win to take back control of the series.

"We talked this morning, we were very business-like in the room and they were ready to play. It’s reality the way they conducted themselves in preparation for this game and then executing on the ice is real good. Game 3 is over, and we’ve got to do it again," Wild coach Dean Evason said after the win.

The Wild got the first goal of the night from Zuccarello, who scored on a backhand shot on rebound after a Hartman redirection at 16:45 of the first period. The Wild took a 2-0 lead on Marcus Johansson’s goal at 2:14 of the second period. The Stars cut the lead in half 11 seconds later, but that’s all they would get.

Foligno tipped a Gustav Nyquist shot at 11:24 of the second period for a goal that was initially waved off due to being played with a high stick. After a review, it was determined to be a good goal and a 3-1 Wild lead.

The Wild put the game away on Zuccarello’s second goal of the night, on a breakaway at 14:07 of the third period for a 4-1 lead. 

"Somebody told me there’s a lot of negative press around him, or was. I don’t know, I don’t read all that crap. He’s been unbelievable. I don’t know what his numbers are, but I know what he’s doing in the room and I know how he’s conducting himself as a pro. It’s great," Evason said.

Hartman made it 5-1 with an empty-net goal with 1:50 to play.

Game 5 is set for Sunday night at Xcel Energy Center, and the Wild has a chance to take complete control of the series. They were able to reset after a blowout loss on Wednesday. Now, they have to do the same after a convincing win.

"Win or lose, it doesn’t really matter. Tonight when you get home, it’s a race to four. We’ve got to make sure we’re ready to go. When you lose, at the end of the day it doesn’t matter if you lose 10-0 or in triple overtime. It’s one game and you’ve got to reset," Zuccarello said.