ST. PAUL, Minn. – Jake Oettinger produced another brilliant playoff performance for the Dallas Stars, all the way down to the closing seconds.
The good show put on by the Minnesota Wild just left them with a heap of frustration.
Tyler Seguin scored two power-play goals and Oettinger made 33 saves in his home state to help the Stars bounce back from a lopsided loss and beat the Wild 3-2 in Game 4 on Sunday night to even their first-round NHL playoff series.
“Every guy on our team is going to have moments where they need to step up in these playoffs, so it was my turn tonight,” Oettinger said.
Evgenii Dadonov gave the Stars a two-score lead early in the third period just 8 seconds after escaping the penalty box, his third goal of the series. John Klingberg responded by scoring for the Wild less than three minutes later against his former team right after a goal-line block on the other end, but the Stars closed out a critical victory on the strength of their star goalie and their potent power play.
“We didn’t make them pay for taking penalties last game,” said Stars coach Peter DeBoer, whose team lost 5-1 in Game 3. “We wanted to make sure we did tonight.”
Both of Seguin's goals followed questionable penalties on Minnesota's feisty right wing Marcus Foligno, who was called for tripping with 4:49 remaining before Seguin delivered his third goal of the series and the second multi-goal playoff game of his career.
“It’s not a tripping call when you hit a guy clean on,” said an angry Foligno, beginning and ending his answer to a question about the officiating with the same expletive.
Frederick Gaudreau gave the Wild another opening on his power-play goal with 1:20 left, but Oettinger didn't budge. He finished off another golden playoff performance by getting a glove on Marcus Johansson's close-range slap shot from the right circle with 12 seconds left as just about everyone on the Wild bench winced with disappointment.
“Just tried to get over there as quickly as I can, so luckily it stayed up,” Oettinger said.
The Central Division foes will relocate for Game 5 in Dallas on Tuesday night.
“We got chances. We played the right way. We didn’t get rewarded tonight, and you can make your evaluation of why we didn’t get rewarded tonight,” Wild coach Dean Evason said. “But we didn’t. If we play like that, we will get rewarded.”
The Wild played again without top center Joel Eriksson Ek, their third-leading scorer and truest two-way player, with a lower-body injury that has limited him to just one shift in the series. They sure could’ve used his stick and strength around the goal to knock in a rebound against Oettinger, who grew up in Lakeville about a half-hour drive from downtown St. Paul.
The 24-year-old Oettinger made a postseason name for himself a year ago with a 64-save effort in the Game 7 overtime loss to Calgary, and he added another gem to his list with this game.
Foligno was denied twice on one breakaway, the rebound try deflected by Oettinger’s pad. Wild star Kirill Kaprizov, who scored in Game 1 but has been hounded and pounded by the Stars all series, had a breakaway shot brushed aside by Oettinger, too.
“He was our best player, and he had to be,” DeBoer said.
NOT SO SPECIAL
Foligno was whistled for interference behind his own net late in the second period, a call that had the crowd and the Wild bench howling. The Stars seized their opening, when Seguin knocked a slow-sliding puck between Filip Gustavsson's pads after an initial shot by Roope Hintz.
Special teams have been a significant problem for the Wild, who are 4 for 17 on the power play. The Stars are 7 for 16.
“We felt like we played way better 5-on-5, and as soon as they got on the power play and after our power play, they scored,” said Gustavsson, who mad 21 saves. "That’s a big momentum swing.”
Hockey crowds have a time-worn habit of taunting the opposing goalie during the playoffs, but the Wild fans hardly mustered much of an anti-Oettinger chant. He was too good to get jeered anyway. Plus, about 25 people in the arena were his family and friends.
“I’m sure they were 10 times as nervous as I was,” Oettinger said. “I feel bad for them sometimes. They’re way more nervous than me, and they just support me through thick and thin.”