ST. PAUL — Wild star forward Kevin Fiala skated up ice late in Game 3 and gave Canucks goaltender Jacob Markstrom an unnecessary shove after the whistle.
He immediately was jumped by a handful of Canucks players before skating off to the penalty box to serve his time for bad behavior.
That sequence was a picture-perfect manifestation of Fiala’s frustrations come to life. He has been the primary focus of the Canucks throughout this best-of-five Western Conference qualifying series, with defenders right up in his face whenever he step onto the ice.
That said, Fiala lamented his decision-making in the aftermath of the Canucks’ 3-0 victory in Edmonton that put the Wild on the brink of elimination. Vancouver leads the series two games to one going into Game 4 at 9:45 p.m. Friday.
“Just limiting those stupid penalties,” he said. “‘I’ve got to stay focused for 60 minutes plus. I can’t take those penalties. They got to me today.”
While Fiala, a 24-year-old winger from Switzerland, has been far and away the most dynamic player for the Wild throughout the postseason, he also has spent way too much time in the penalty box.
“I was six minutes in the penalty box,” he said. “That’s too long. Just have to focus on the game and focus on helping us. Everybody is better on the ice, and that’s going to be my main focus next game.”
It wasn’t only Fiala, though, as Wild coach Dean Evason made sure to point out after the game. In total, the Wild had 22 penalty minutes in Thursday’s game.
“We took bad penalties tonight,” Evason said. “We talked about it at the start here. We have talked until we are blue in the face about staying off the referees and not taking bad penalties. And we did that as a group.”
Wild rookie Nico Sturm made his playoff debut in Game 3, drawing into the lineup for winger Ryan Donato. He played alongside veteran center Mikko Koivu and opposite gritty winger Ryan Hartman.
That line was designed to provide a physical presence near the bottom of the lineup, and the 6-foot-3, 205-pound Sturm fit right in. He played 10 minutes, 12 seconds in the game.
“We thought he played extremely well,” Evason said. “We were looking for some size, which he provided for us. He was a guy that gave us another face-off person for us. You saw he killed penalties for us. We tried to limit Zach Parise’s time (on the penalty kill), so we could have him a little bit more, and (Sturm) took a bit of that.”
Veteran Wild defenseman Ryan Suter hobbled off the ice with an apparent lower-body injury late in Thursday’s game and did not return.
Not surprisingly, Evason provided little clarity about whether Suter will be ready for Game 4. Asked if he had an update on Suter postgame, Evason responded, “I do not.”