Freddy Gaudreau believes this team can win a title
ST. PAUL, Minn. — Roope Hintz got Dallas going early, Jake Oettinger stonewalled his home-state team again and the Stars eliminated the Minnesota Wild with a 4-1 win in Game 6 of their first-round NHL playoff series on Friday night.
Wyatt Johnston and Mason Marchment scored in the second period when a burst by the Stars — smelling the Western Conference semifinals and swooping in for the finish — outshot the Wild 18-5. Max Domi closed it out with an empty-netter in the final minute.
Oettinger made 22 saves for the Stars, who advanced to face the Colorado-Seattle winner. The Kraken took a 3-2 series lead on the Avalanche into their Game 6 on Friday.
Oettinger was bidding for his second shutout of the series before Freddy Gaudreau scored for the Wild with 7:07 left.
Filip Gustavsson, starting a fourth consecutive game for the first time in his first season with Minnesota, stopped 23 shots in two periods. Marc-Andre Fleury, who was in net for a 7-3 loss at Dallas in Game 2, took over in the third.
The Wild fell to 5-14 on home ice in the playoffs since the last time they advanced, a first-round win over St. Louis in 2015. They are 4-13 in franchise history in postseason series.
The Stars lost in seven games in the first round to Calgary last year.
With a raucous assist from Minnesota Vikings tight end T.J. Hockenson on the “Let's Play Hockey!” call, the crowd was buzzing along with the Wild during their strong start. But the fans — not to mention the frustrated home team — just never got rewarded.
Ryan Hartman had an open net for a rebound that rolled just out of reach for a clean shot, and Oettinger and defenseman Ryan Suter immediately covered up the crease to prevent another try. Just seconds later, Hintz went the other way to deke defenseman John Klingberg and deliver a top-shelf shot that sailed over Gustavsson's glove.
Hintz has five goals and leads the NHL playoffs with 12 points. The fifth-year forward helped the top line continue to thrive without center Joe Pavelski, who has returned to practice but was held out again after a concussion in Game 1.
The Wild finally stayed out of the penalty box, rendering a Stars power play that was 9 for 22 over the first five games a nonfactor. But the Wild might as well have declined the penalties called on the Stars, because their power play — 0 for 2 in the game and 4 for 22 in the series — was again a momentum-killer instead of a momentum-builder. The crowd booed toward the end of their first 5-on-4 dud.
The Wild consistently created good looks at the net, but their passing and shooting touch was just off the mark all series. This time they weren't able to generate the breakaways they did in the 3-2 loss here in Game 4, and they started to run out of steam midway through the game.
The Stars spoke about the lesson they learned from letting the Wild feed off the crowd in their 5-1 win in Game 3, and they sure responded well. The team that scored first won all six games in the series.
Evgenii Dadonov flipped a no-look pass from behind the net into the slot, where an uncontested Johnston swooped in to score his first goal of the series.
Soon after Mats Zuccarello's open shot sailed over the crossbar, the Stars delivered a big blow when Marchment scored with just 0.5 seconds left before the second intermission.
The Wild took a 2-1 lead on St. Louis in the playoffs last year before dropping three straight games, too. Kirill Kaprizov was their heartbeat of that series against the Blues, but the superstar left wing struggled to get going this year after a goal in Game 1.
Suter, his former teammate, and fellow blue-liner Miro Heiskanen made Kaprizov work for every inch of ice and frequently met him with punishing checks.