The Minnesota Wild have a chance to achieve a franchise first on Sunday.
With a second-straight victory over the Dallas Stars, the Wild could grab a 3-1 lead in the first-round Western Conference playoff series. That’s a position the team has never been before.
And the Wild will have the chance to take a commanding lead in the series, thanks to a 5-1 win in Game 3 in which they got a pair of goals from Mats Zuccarello and another stellar performance from Filip Gustavsson in net and were in control basically from the start.
It what the opposite of how Game 2 went for the Wild. The goal now is to repeat that effort.
“We were very businesslike in the room (before the game) and they were just ready to play,” Wild coach Dean Evason said of his team during a postgame media session Friday night. “I know it gets old when I talk about our leaders and whatever, but it’s reality. The way they conducted themselves in preparation for this game and then the execution on the ice is real good, obviously.
“Again, we talked about Game 2 is over. Game 3 is over,” Evason said. “We’ve got to do it again.”
And that would be by playing again with grit, the slogan for the team’s playoff drive and also what the Wild showed in Game 3.
“We understand that’s how our team plays,” Wild forward Marcus Foligno said in a postgame media availability session. “That’s how we need to play. Nice to get to the game early and stick with it for a full 60 (minutes). Solid efforts all around. Guys just working, a lot of one-one-one battles were won and that’s where the grit comes into play. And then we can make plays.
(The game) goes for you by just playing simple and playing the right way hard,” Foligno said.
The Wild also got a jump from the crowd that jammed the Xcel Energy Center and was vocal in its support for Minnesota and also contempt for Stars defenseman Ryan Suter. The veteran, who spent nine seasons with the Wild was serenated with the refrain of, ‘Su-ter sucks’ at points throughout the night.
The crowd included members of the Vikings tight end room, a group that demonstrated their levels of beer-slamming.
“Our fans were unbelievable tonight,” Foligno said. “There was a buzz in the arena from warm-ups on.”
One can imagine what the atmosphere will be like on Sunday afternoon.
It’s clear the Wild fans are ready to match their level of intensity for Game 4, if not surpass it.
Let’s hope the Wild players do the same.