ST. PAUL, Minn. -- There couldn't have been a more fitting ending to Hockey Day Minnesota.
The state-wide celebration of the game, emanating this year from Elk River, Minn., got a storybook ending Saturday when native son Nate Prosser scored the game-winning goal 2:42 into overtime, lifting the Minnesota Wild to a 3-2 win against the Dallas Stars at Xcel Energy Center.
"If there's any undecided votes for the mayor of Elk River, I think we cleared that up tonight," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "All kidding aside, that's a very fitting end to Hockey Day."
Prosser, who has scored only three goals in his 98-game NHL career, now has game-winners in two straight games for the Wild, who have won seven of their past nine.
"We're real happy to have that moment because, talk about a guy who goes out and does all the thankless things, doesn't get a lot of those opportunities to get the glory," Yeo said. "Certainly, he's a guy that goes out and gives other guys that opportunity."
With the Wild outshot and out-chanced virtually all night, Minnesota forced overtime thanks in large part to goaltender Darcy Kuemper, who made 33 saves. Once it got there, a quality shift by young forwards Charlie Coyle and Nino Niederreiter set up the winner.
Prosser played the puck down low to Coyle behind the net, who passed to Niederreiter for a one-timer in the slot. Dallas goaltender Kari Lehtonen stopped the shot, but the rebound squirted free to a crashing Prosser from the blue line and he pushed it through Lehtonen's five-hole.
"I'm at an all-time high right now, I can't believe what happened," Prosser said. "Nino and Coyle, they had a good forecheck going, made some good plays. I saw him go to the net so tried sneaking backdoor and it just popped out to me. I just wanted to get it in."
Another player with local ties got the Wild on the board first. Fourth-line center Erik Haula, a former University of Minnesota star, blocked an Erik Cole shot at the point in one end, then chipped the puck off the glass to himself to create a mini-breakaway. Haula's wrister beat Lehtonen for his first career NHL goal at 7:17. The goal came on Minnesota's first shot of the game.
"Something you dream about," Haula said. "Something that's been a long time coming, it's unbelievable. It took a little while for the chills to go away."
The Stars held the Wild to only three shots in the first period, but trailed until 11:57 of the second period when it strung together a number of quality shifts and zone time. A shot by Vernon Fiddler at the top of the right circle was stopped by Kuemper, but a juicy rebound went right to Ryan Garbutt at the top of the crease for his 10th of the season.
Less than three minutes later, the Wild's third line took advantage of a Stars turnover in their own end, holding the zone until a Ryan Suter shot from the point got through traffic and over Lehtonen for his sixth of the season.
Despite leading 2-1 on the scoreboard, Minnesota trailed Dallas 22-9 in shots through 40 minutes.
"We outworked them, outplayed them, didn't give them a lot," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. "A little bit of bad luck."
Minnesota remained on top until a Clayton Stoner holding penalty put the Stars on the power play midway through the third period, as Alex Chiasson scored his ninth of the season and first in 20 games.
An initial shot by Tyler Seguin was stopped by an aggressive Kuemper, who came to the top of his crease to stop the shot. The puck caromed to the right circle for Alex Goligoski, who only had Suter standing in the crease between him and a goal. Suter did his best to make a save, keeping out the attempt by Goligoski, but Chiasson was there to clean up the loose puck in the crease.
"This was probably one of our best games defensively, as far as scoring chances allowed to the other team," Chiasson said. "It's just tough. It's just a little play there, we battle through. It would have been nice to get a win."
Lehtonen made 16 saves and has one win in his past seven starts. As a team, the Stars have won just once to start 2014.
Dallas has three games in hand on Minnesota, but is now nine points back of the Wild in the Central Division standings. The teams play again Tuesday in Dallas, but the Stars have a game Monday against the Nashville Predators first.
Kuemper improved to 4-2-0 this season and has won three of four consecutive starts.
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