ST.PAUL - A bad period and an unfortunate bounce proved too much to overcome for the Dallas Stars.
The Stars fell behind early with a sluggish start, and Minnesota secured the winning goal with the help of a Dallas defenseman in the Wild's 3-2 win on Saturday night at Xcel Energy Center.
Playing the second game of back-to-backers against a team that had the day off Friday, the Stars were manhandled in a pivotal opening 20-minute span in which the Wild scored twice and outshot the Stars by a 17-4 margin.
Dallas was able to tie the game in the second period on consecutive power-play goals by Loui Eriksson, but Minnesota netted the winner on a fluky play with 1:48 left in the middle frame.
From behind the Dallas net, Minnesota defenseman Marek Zidlicky sent the puck to the front, but it bounced off Stars goalie Alex Auld's skate and into the crease. Trying to clear it away, Nicklas Grossman inadvertently tapped it into the empty net, giving Minnesota the lead they never relinquished.
Auld, making his sixth start of the season, finished with 34 saves, but fell to 2-2-2 on the year.
Cal Clutterbuck and Mikko Koivu also scored for the Wild, who improved to 11-2-4 in their last 17 games at home dating back to last year. Goalie Niklas Backstrom made 19 stops in earning his 13th win in his last 19 decisions on home ice.
The Stars were once again without winger James Neal, who is nursing a groin injury that has kept him out of the last two games.
Dallas came in after two consecutive games of registering 40 or more shots on goal, but was able to muster only a handful on Backstrom in the first period. By the time the Stars had taken their first attempt with seven minutes left, Minnesota had already fired 10 on Auld.
The Wild opened the scoring with a shorthanded goal by Clutterbuck midway through the first period. With Brent Burns in the penalty box for four minutes after high sticking Eriksson, Clutterbuck let a quick snap shot go from the right circle on a 2-on-1 break that beat Auld.
Koivu made it 2-0 with just over two minutes left in the first period on Minnesota's 17th shot of the frame. After being denied from point-blank range by Auld, Koivu collected the rebound along the goal line and swatted it towards the Dallas net. The puck wound up ricocheting in off Auld's pads.
Eriksson cut the lead in half on the power play with his seventh of the season 3:33 into the second period. Standing to the left of Backstrom, Eriksson sent a cross-ice pass intended for Steve Ott, but Minnesota defenseman Nick Schultz accidentally re-directed the pass into his own net.
Eriksson then tied it at 2 with 4:09 left in the second period with another power-play goal. Standing at the edge of the crease, Eriksson utilized his backhand to deftly re-direct Brad Richards' pass from the left point.
Richards extended his points streak to eight games with the helper.
"In the first period we didn't have any legs, and didn't have anything pretty much," right wing Jere Lehtinen said. "We came out in the second period and started to skate more, got a couple of goals back and got in the game."
The Stars will now enjoy an extended layoff, as their next game isn't until Thursday night when they play at San Jose (9:30, FSN). The Sharks entered Saturday's action as the top team in the Pacific Division with 24 points.
Meanwhile, both Brenden Morrow and Mike Modano are expected to fly to Toronto for former Stars sniper and current executive vice president Brett Hull's induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
--Clutterbuck's goal was the first shorthanded tally allowed by Dallas this season.
--Eriksson extended his points streak to three games.
--Richards has recorded at least a point in all but two of Dallas' games this season.
--The Stars were unable to pick up a point when trailing after two periods for only the third time in seven tries this season (0-3-4).
--Auld is now 5-2-1 lifetime against Minnesota.
--The Stars have surrendered three or more goals in five of their last six games.