ST. PAUL, Minn. – Jake Oettinger had the privilege of playing in front of his family and the thrill of backstopping the Dallas Stars to a clinching win in his native Minnesota.
Ryan Suter had the satisfaction of beating his former team that bought out his contract two years ago.
The Stars had all kinds of reasons to cherish this victory, including a little extra rest.
“I think the guys knew how important it was for both of us,” Suter said, “and everyone really stepped up and competed hard for us.”
Wyatt Johnston and Mason Marchment scored in the second period, when a burst by the Stars — swooping in for the finish — outshot the Wild 18-5. Max Domi had an empty-netter in the final minute.
Oettinger made 22 saves for the Stars, who advanced to face the Colorado-Seattle winner. The Avalanche beat the Kraken on Friday to force Game 7.
Oettinger was bidding for his second shutout of the series before Freddy Gaudreau scored for the Wild with 7:07 left.
“He’s our brick wall back there, and we trust him. Any time we make mistakes, he’s there for us," Marchment said. “We wouldn’t be here without him.”
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 center Joe Pavelski expected back for the next round after missing the last five games with a concussion, they're in position to make another push for the Stanley Cup Finals they reached in the 2020 pandemic bubble.
The raucous crowd was buzzing early, but the fans 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 Suter immediately covered up the crease to prevent another try. Just seconds later, Hintz went the other way to deliver a top-shelf shot that sailed over Gustavsson's glove.
“They’re so good around the net. That was a focal point for us in the series, and I thought tonight was our best defensive game,” Oettinger said.
Hintz has five goals and leads the NHL playoffs with 12 points, helping the top line continue to thrive without Pavelski while Tyler Seguin deftly moved up to join him and Jason Robertson.
“We wouldn’t be sitting here moving on to the next round tonight without Tyler Seguin’s contributions in this series,” coach Peter DeBoer said.
The team that scored first won all six games in the series.
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.
“Sick to my stomach about it,” Hartman said. “This city deserves better than what we gave them. The fans, they’ve shown up for us all year and we we failed them.”
The Wild consistently created good looks at the net, but their passing and shooting touch was off the mark all series and ran out of steam after the first intermission. Evgenii Dadonov flipped a no-look pass from behind the net into the slot, where an uncontested Johnston scored 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 and fellow blue-liner Miro Heiskanen made Kaprizov work for every inch of ice and frequently met him with punishing checks.
“For the most of the games, I thought we were the better team and we still ended up losing. That’s probably the most frustrating,” Zuccarello said. “Maybe last year I think you have a feeling you lost to a better team.”