Wild 6, Stars 3
It turned out that eight was quite enough for the Minnesota Wild.
Eight days after allowing eight Dallas goals, the Wild extracted some revenge with a 6-3 win over the Stars at the Xcel Energy Center on Thursday night.
The loss was Dallas' season-high matching third straight after a stretch in which it had won eight of nine, and put its one-point lead over San Jose in jeopardy, pending the outcome of the Sharks game late Thursday night against Calgary.
"Our ability to play with the puck is not real good right now," center Mike Modano said. "Getting the puck up and down the ice has been more difficult than it should be. We need to keep working and get back to playing our game."
In the Stars 8-3 win over Minnesota at American Airlines Center on Dec. 26, the game got out of hand when Dallas began a four-goal, third-period onslaught. It didn't take quite that long on Thursday for the Wild to break this one open, as they scored four times in a 9:42 span of a frantic first period that saw them take a three-goal lead after 20 minutes.
The Wild scored their first three goals of the game on their initial four shots in a 3:24 stretch to chase Dallas starting goaltender Marty Turco, and their four goals in the opening stanza came on just seven shots overall.
Mike Smith finished with 14 saves in relief of Turco, who had started the last three games.
Stu Barnes, Steve Ott
and Matt Niskanen
scored for the Stars, who lost for just the third time in the last eight road games.
Marian Gaborik had two goals and an assist, Pierre-Marc Bouchard added a goal and two assists, and Pavol Demitra, Eric Belanger and Mark Parrish also scored for the Wild, who have won seven of their last 10.
"We didn't have a good start and it was just a bad first period in general," Modano said. "We got a little push in the second to make it interesting, but it wasn't enough."
Down 5-1 after Belanger scored midway through the second period, the Stars battled back with a pair of goals late in the frame by Ott and Virginia, Minnesota native Niskanen to make it 5-3, but were unable to build off that momentum in the third.
For Niskanen, the goal came in front of about 200 family members and friends who made the four-hour drive from his hometown.
"It was great to see all the blue shirts from Virginia and feel so much support from my hometown, but that was not the result that we were looking for," he said. "This was a great crowd and a great experience, and I will never forget the feeling of scoring an NHL goal in my first game here."
The Stars were without top scoring defenseman Sergei Zubov for the second straight game because of a hand injury, and actually wound up playing the majority of the contest with just four defenseman, as rookies Nicklas Grossman
and Mark Fistric
were used sparingly.
"We're capable of winning games with the lineup we have right now," Niskanen said. "Yes, we miss the players that are out, but this group can win if we play a full 60 minutes."
The Wild went wild in the first period, and got things started when Gaborik made it 1-0 with a short-handed goal at 9:50. After tipping the puck past defenseman Trevor Daley
at the Minnesota blueline, Gaborik outraced Daley down the ice before chipping the puck over Turco, who was attempting a poke check.
Minnesota upped its lead 75 seconds later when Demitra scored his eighth of the year, putting home a rebound after Bouchard's original shot from in close was stopped by Turco.
The Wild went up 3-0 at 13:14 when Bouchard scored his seventh of the season while both teams were a man short. Brent Burns' pass from the left circle to Brian Rolston in the slot bounced off Rolston's stick and right onto Bouchard's, and the center promptly deposited the puck into a gaping net.
Coach Dave Tippett pulled Turco after the goal.
The Stars got some energy when Barnes scored his fifth of the season 53 seconds later. Barnes was able to neatly put a wrist shot from the inner edge of the left circle along the ice and past Minnesota goalie Niklas Backstrom to cut the deficit to 3-1, but the Wild restored their three-goal cushion on Gaborik's second of the game and team-leading 21st of the season.
Gaborik was the beneficiary of Ott's turnover deep in the Dallas end, and he greeted Smith by snapping an unabated shot from the right circle past the big netminder.
Belanger notched his 10th of the year at 10:08 of the second period with a power-play goal. Standing in the high slot, Belanger re-directed Gaborik's half-slap shot past Smith to snap Dallas' string of successful penalty kills at 25.
Ott closed the gap to 5-2 with his fourth at 15:34, scoring on a backhand from the right circle following a feed from Modano.
Niskanen then made it 5-3 with his third of the season with just 1:39 left in the middle period. Standing just off to the side of Backstrom, Niskanen one-timed Mike Ribeiro
's pass from the left corner.
"He's a very solid young player who was obviously excited to play in his home state," Tippett said about Niskanen. "It was great for him to get the goal, but obviously he'd trade it for a win. He's a likeable young guy with good hockey sense and a lot of poise."
Parrish capped the scoring with his 10th with just under four minutes left in regulation.
The Stars return home and will host the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday afternoon at American Airlines Center (1 p.m., FSN). The Western Conference-leading Red Wings defeated Dallas 4-1 on Wednesday in Detroit.
Of Detroit's eight losses this year, five have come on the road.
--There were two scraps in the emotionally-charged game, beginning with Brenden Morrow
squaring off against Aaron Voros at the end of the first period. Immediately after the puck dropped for the second period, Krys Barch and former Stars forward Todd Fedoruk dropped the gloves
-- Ott received a minor and 10-minute misconduct for official abuse at 12:49 of the third.
--Barnes, who is one game shy of 1,100 career NHL games, has scored at least one goal in four of the past six games.
--Forward Chris Conner was a healthy scratch, while Jussi Jokinen (knee) and Zubov didn't play because of injuries.
--The Stars scored more than two goals in Minnesota for the first time in six games.
--The Stars had earned points in eight straight against the Wild before Thursday.
--It was the first time Dallas allowed six goals since its 6-5 overtime loss in Los Angeles in November.
|Three star selections