Over the course of an 82-game regular season, there’s going to be a certain amount of repetition. Predictable 3-2 outcomes and 5-2 contests which were never really contested by the loser all run together in the minds of players, fans and scribes alike. Amid the midseason monotony, Saturday’s 5-4 Minnesota Wild win over the Dallas Stars shines like the sun.
“That’s not how I drew that up at all,” said Wild coach Bruce Boudreau. “I will say I was pretty surprised at the first five minutes. We came out with a lot of jump and a lot of energy but you don’t expect to score three goals on three shots.”
Indeed, Stars goalie Antti Niemi’s night ended after he failed to stop any of the three shots Minnesota sent his way. Replacement Kari Lehtonen allowed another goal, giving the Wild a 4-0 first period lead.
Dallas coach Lindy Ruff didn’t sugarcoat it, saying “It was definitely a bad start.” Despite the 4-0 deficit, though, the Stars didn’t quit.
“We worked hard to get back in it,” said Ruff. His team’s efforts were rewarded with a goal in the waning seconds of the first period.
The Stars built momentum through the middle frame, adding two more goals to turn a 4-0 laugher into a 4-3 nail-biter. Then, with 8:47 remaining in the final period, John Klingberg’s power play goal completed the Dallas comeback, eliciting a roar from the home crowd not normally heard during the regular season.
Minnesota popped Dallas’ balloon two minutes later, however, scoring off the rush to regain the lead for good. 5-4 was the final score of a game which won’t soon be forgotten by fans of either club.
One team was ready to play when the puck dropped, and it wasn’t the Dallas Stars. Minnesota scored thrice in the first four minutes to chase Antti Niemi from the Dallas net.
Wild captain Mikko Koivu opened the scoring just 1:19 into the game…with a little help from Dallas defenseman Johnny Oduya.
Goals from Eric Staal and Matt Dumba followed in quick succession, and Niemi’s night was over before he’d even broken a sweat. Kari Lehtonen came on in relief, earning a Bronx cheer from the Dallas fans when he made the Stars’ first save of the night near the midpoint of the frame.
A couple of minutes after making his first save of the night, Lehtonen allowed his first goal. Wild winger Jordan Schroeder carried the puck down the left side before backhanding it toward the net to linemate Chris Stewart for an easy tip-in.
After an inconsequential power play in the latter stages of the period, Dallas finally answered the Minnesota onslaught when Antoine Roussel found the back of the net off the rush with 6.5 seconds left. Shots were even at 12 apiece after 20 minutes of play.
Much like Thursday’s game against Detroit, the Dallas dressing room was not a happy place after the first period. And much like Thursday’s game against Detroit, the Stars came out properly motivated in the second period.
2:20 into the frame, Devin Shore carried the puck into the Wild zone, then dished it to Jiri Hudler, who didn’t miss.
With their lead halved, the Wild tried to mount a counterattack. Lehtonen made a flurry of saves to deny Minnesota before Tyler Seguin backhanded the rebound of Jamie Benn’s shot into the net to pull the Stars within one.
Though clearly rattled, the Wild managed to draw two penalties against Dallas in the latter half of the period. The Stars killed off both penalties, however, and drew a favorable call late but couldn’t score with the man advantage.
Minnesota led 26-24 in shots after two.
The home team played a much more physical third period, but found themselves in penalty trouble early. With 41 seconds remaining in Patrick Eaves’ hooking penalty, Shore joined him in the box, guilty of tripping. Dallas killed off the five-on-three, as well as the remaining five-on-four, to keep the game within reach.
Halfway through the final period, Staal was boxed for tripping and the Stars went on the power play. It took less than a minute for John Klingberg to make the Dallas fans roar.
The game came untied two minutes later, when Mikael Granlund’s shot went off Lehtonen, off Jason Zucker and into the Stars’ net. Dallas couldn’t muster a response, allowing Minnesota to escape with two points.
MIN – Mikko Koivu (13) unassisted
MIN – Eric Staal (15) assisted by Christian Folin (4)
MIN – Matt Dumba (7) assisted by Mikael Granlund (23) and Jared Spurgeon (15)
MIN – Chris Stewart (8) assisted by Jordan Schroeder (3) and Ryan Suter (19)
DAL – Antoine Roussel (6) assisted by Radek Faksa (14) and Brett Ritchie (5)
DAL – Jiri Hudler (2) assisted by Devin Shore (11) and John Klingberg (18)
DAL – Tyler Seguin (16) assisted by Jamie Benn (25) and John Klingberg (19)
DAL – John Klingberg (7) (PPG) assisted by Tyler Seguin (27) and Jason Spezza (20)
MIN – Jason Zucker (11) assisted by Mikael Granlund (24)
THW Three Stars
First: Mikael Granlund (2 assists)
Second: John Klingberg (1 goal, 2 assists)
Third: Jason Zucker (1 goal, 1 assist)
Dallas Stars at Buffalo Sabres
KeyBank Center – 12:00 p.m. CST on Monday, Jan. 16
Broadcast channels: FS-SW, MSG-B
2016-17 Season Series: First Meeting of the Season
Minnesota Wild at Chicago Blackhawks
United Center – 6:00 p.m. CST on Sunday, Jan. 15
Broadcast channels: NBCSN
2016-17 Season Series: First Meeting of the Season
Matt blogged about all things hockey at On Goal Analysis/The OGA Blogs from 2008-2014 and has written several travel articles for The Dallas Morning News. He began covering the Dallas Stars and Florida Panthers for The Hockey Writers in August 2015. Matt is also writing a biography of “Tex” Rickard, the Texas cowboy who founded the New York Rangers and the Madison Square Garden Corporation.