It wasn’t the outcome we wanted here in the Wilderness, but man, it was great to be watching Wild hockey again, wasn’t it?
With Minnesota playing in its first game in nine days—and one that actually had pretty huge standings implications—Dallas had the obvious advantage of having played since its own extended break concluded, as well as having more days to practice. The Green ‘n’ Wheats came into Dallas on Friday with a very tenuous one-point lead over the Stars for the third spot in the Central, and sadly when the night was over, it would be Dallas leaving with that same one-point advantage over Minnesota.
The Wild didn’t play terribly, but nothing was especially crisp, and the execution just wasn’t there. Heading into a grueling stretch of games before the February 25th trade deadline, one can only hope that the execution levels we saw from this team going into the All-Star break will return very soon.
Not much to report from Friday’s first period. The Stars predictably had the better of the possession and the play, but Devan Dubnyk made several solid saves to keep the game scoreless. At the other end, the Wild had a couple of chances, but nothing doing against Ben Bishop either, and while the pace was ok and it wasn’t terribly sloppy… there just wasn’t much happening in the opening frame.
0-0 after one stanza.
The second period would end up being a bit more eventful than the first.
Three minutes into the second, Dubnyk made a fantastic sliding save on Roope Hintz, who took a pass off the rush from Denis Gurianov. Gurianov and Hintz were essentially on a two-on-zero rush, though Marcus Foligno was hustling back. Gurianov snuck a perfect pass through Foligno, and Hintz got good wood on it, but Dubnyk slid across to make a solid pad save. The Wild did little to thank their goalie, though, because just seconds later, Dallas was back in the offensive zone. An innocuous-looking shot from the point by Roman Polak was deflected by Andrew Cogliano for his first goal as a member of the Stars, after he was acquired from the Ducks in exchange for Devin Shore on January 14th.
Adding injury to insult, Pontus Aberg fell awkwardly in the offensive zone about a minute later, and then limped off the ice and down the tunnel. Aberg would eventually return for one more shift, but didn’t appear in the third period.
Just under the 15-minute mark in the second, Cogliano accidentally got his stick up on Zach Parise and cut the Wild forward’s lip, meaning Cogliano would sit for four minutes. The first penalty of the double-minor quickly melted away, though, with the Wild failing to even get set up in the offensive zone. But the penalty was so long that Minnesota would eventually figure it out, as Jason Zucker had a good opportunity robbed by a pretty glove save by Bishop with a minute left on the infraction. A few seconds later, Brad Hunt—recent addition to Minnesota’s blueline by way of Vegas—got his first goal with the Wild by sneaking down from the point and one-timing a perfect Eric Staal pass from just a few feet outside the goalcrease.
Dallas had the next power play opportunity, and nearly cashed in. An Alex Radulov one-timer was turned away by Dubnyk, and the rebound was clanked off the post by horses**t superstar Tyler Seguin. Dubnyk then added another outstanding blocker save on Gurianov just as the penalty to Staal was expiring.
Mikael Granlund had a prime opportunity to give Minnesota the lead with two minutes left in the frame, as Mikko Koivu laid a beautiful pass onto his tape, but Granlund sailed it over the net. The teams would go back to their dressing rooms level at 1-1, but with Dallas outshooting Minnesota by a 25-12 margin.
For the first time in the game, the Wild came out for the third period looking like the better team. They maintained this throughout the period, but didn’t capitalize on the chances they were getting in the early minutes, and eventually the Stars would take advantage and break the tie.
With about seven minutes remaining, Seguin rushed down the boards and wound up from the outside hashmarks to Dubnyk’s left. A backchecking Ryan Suter extended his stick to try to thwart the bad-angle shot, but he deflected it just enough to fool Dubnyk and give Dallas its game-winning goal.
With Dubnyk on the bench in the final minute, Seguin would add his second of the game and 20th of the year to seal it for the Stars.
Of all the great saves Dubnyk had on the night, each of the two goals he allowed came on harmless-looking shots from non-scoring positions, but deflections got the better of the Minnesota netminder. Still, Dubnyk had a REALLY good game, stopping 29 of 31 shots, and indicating that he may continue to roll the same way he was before the break.
Dallas moves into third place, and the Wild drop into a wild card spot. Minnesota goes right back to work at home against Chicago on Saturday.