ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Just 24 hours after achieving a number of firsts as a member of the Minnesota Wild, Zach Parise checked some more items off his to-do list.
Parise's one-timer from the high slot at 8:11 of the first period was his first goal as a member of the Wild and became his first game-winner as Minnesota defeated the Dallas Stars 1-0 Sunday night at Xcel Energy Center.
With the teams skating 4-on-4, the puck came to Pierre-Marc Bouchard near the left circle. He dished it to Parise on his right, and goaltender rookie goaltender Cristopher Nilstrop had no chance, as Parise's blast snuck just inside the right post and tucked under the crossbar.
"It felt good to get one and get one early in the season," Parise said. "You don't want to have that dragging over you."
Both teams were coming off home victories Saturday night and looked tired during the middle part of the game before the intensity picked up in the final five minutes. But Dallas' Trevor Daley committed a critical high sticking penalty with 2:01 remaining in regulation, making the task of tying the game that much tougher.
Despite playing shorthanded, the Stars had perhaps the best chance of the night with 1:10 left in regulation. Minnesota defenseman Jared Spurgeon turned the puck over in the corner to Stars center Derek Roy, who fed a streaking Ray Whitney crashing from the point. But facing his stiffest test of the night, Wild goaltender Josh Harding was up to the task, preserving the lead and the win.
"A huge save," Parise said. "We got caught napping a little bit."
"We got that chance there in the last minute, but otherwise, they blocked a lot of shots," said Dallas' Jaromir Jagr, held off the scoresheet after a four-point night Saturday against Phoenix. "It was tough to get any chances."
Dallas coach Glen Gulutzan said he was disappointed with his team's start.
"Back-to-back [games], we seemed a little lethargic to start the game," Gulutzan said. "If you want to win on the road, you've got to be prepared and sometimes you can get the game in the first 10 minutes like they did."
The night was especially special for Harding, making his first start since announcing almost two months ago that he has multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system. Among the symptoms are loss of balance, numbness, problems moving ones legs and arms, problems walking and difficulties with coordination.
Harding said there were times after his diagnosis in October where he wondered if he would ever be back to where he was Sunday night, stopping 24 shots for his seventh career shutout.
"I can't thank the team enough for having my back, they made some great plays and played great out there," Harding said. "It was a long time coming. It's been a tough couple months here, but this made it all worth it."
Wild coach Mike Yeo came to the podium afterwards and breathed a loud sigh of relief.
"That's what good teams do," Yeo said when asked about finding new ways to win. "Good teams find a way to win. Sometimes you gotta win 1-0 sometimes you gotta score four goals. Every night is unique but guys did what they had to do tonight."
Yeo said the win was extra special because of what Harding has endured over the last 90 days.
"This is something most of can't understand, what he's going through and what he's been through," Yeo said. "But he's earned everything. We haven't given him a thing, he's earned it. I'm really happy for him."
Minnesota's 2-0-0 record is the first such start since 2008-09 when the Wild began the year 4-0-0. The Wild are off Monday before hosting Nashville to wrap a three-game homestand to start the season. It will also be Ryan Suter's first game against the Predators, the team he played with for the first seven seasons of his career.
The Stars are also off until Tuesday when they play at Detroit.
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