Struggling Wild get win over Stars
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Minnesota Wild returned from the Christmas break and treated coach Bruce Boudreau to a hard-fought 477th career victory in his 800th game behind an NHL bench.
Mikael Granlund’s second-period goal stood up as the game-winner and Alex Stalock made 24 saves as the Wild held on for a 4-2 victory over the Dallas Stars on Wednesday night at Xcel Energy Center.
“It’s a really good way to start the week and after the little break,” Granlund said. “Now we try and move on, we have two really tough games this weekend (against Nashville). Let’s keep it going.”
Jared Spurgeon, Eric Staal and Jason Zucker added goals for Minnesota (19-15-3) and Charlie Coyle had a pair of assists as the Wild won for only the second time in six games.
Minnesota now sits in sole possession of fifth place in the Central Division, two points ahead of Chicago and two points behind fourth-place Dallas.
“I likened it this morning to a game of golf where we played the first nine holes and probably aren’t as happy as we’d like to be, but we can always make it up by having a great back nine,” Boudreau said. “It’s only one game. It was a good divisional start.”
Tyler Seguin and Mattias Janmark scored for the Stars (20-15-3) but it wasn’t enough as Dallas saw its two-game winning streak snapped. Goaltender Ben Bishop (15-10-2) kept his team within striking distance with 27 saves.
“It was our poorest effort by a mile,” Dallas coach Ken Hitchcock said. “We were light everywhere; light on the puck, light around our net, light around their net. This looked like the way we played a month and a half ago.”
Granlund’s power-play goal at 13:08 of the second period snapped a 2-2 tie and Zucker’s empty-net goal with 44.2 seconds left capped the night’s scoring.
Mikko Koivu’s shot from right circle was deflected by Zucker off Bishop’s pads to a wide-open Granlund at the back door for his eighth of the season.
With the score tied 1-1 entering the second period, Staal gave Minnesota its first lead with his team-leading 15th goal.
Coyle’s pass sprung Staal and Tyler Ennis on a 2-on-1 with Dallas’ Greg Pateryn defending. Staal’s backhand pass intended for Ennis at the left post went in off the Stars’ defenseman’s skate at the 5:12 mark.
“They had so many odd-man rushes, probably the most I’ve seen against us this year,” Seguin said.
The line of Staal, Coyle and Ennis combined for four points and caused problems for Dallas nearly every shift.
“They were making plays,” Boudreau said. “They could’ve had a couple more goals, I thought. That’s what we need from that line.”
The Stars got the equalizer midway through the period with Minnesota’ s Daniel Winnik off for slashing. Seguin’s shot from the left circle missed wide but caromed off the end wall to Janmark for a tap-in at the far post at 10:43, just 10 seconds into the power play.
The miss appeared to be by design but Seguin did not take undue credit for it.
“No, I mean, Spurgeon’s always in my lane,” Seguin said. “He’s good at that ... so I was just trying to get it through.”
The game got underway with the Wild and Stars looking every bit the part of two teams coming off three days of holiday cheer. Dallas was held without a shot for the first 7:01 of the game before firing eight of the next 10 in the period, including Seguin’s 18th goal at 12:37.
After Stalock robbed Devin Shore on a shot from between the circles, the puck rebounded all the way to Stars defenseman Esa Lindell, who quickly found Seguin in the right circle for a redirect past a sprawling Stalock for a 1-0 lead.
Dallas’ record dropped to 16-4-1 when scoring first this season.
Bishop kept the Wild off the board by stopping an Ennis’ redirection of a Jonas Brodin shot before denying quality chances by Coyle and Winnik 23 seconds apart near the period’s 17th minute.
The Wild solved Bishop with 40.4 seconds remaining in the opening period when Ennis’ left-circle shot off the rush was stopped before Coyle lifted the rebound toward the far post, where Spurgeon batted it in out of mid-air.
Spurgeon’s fourth goal of the season was his first point in five games since his return from a nine-game absence due to a torn groin tendon and his first goal in his last nine games played.
NOTES: Dallas RW Brett Ritchie drew back into the Stars’ lineup after sitting out four straight games as a healthy scratch. C Gemel Smith replaced Ritchie in the press box on Wednesday. ... Dallas D Marc Methot missed his 23rd straight game with a knee injury. ... Minnesota G Devan Dubnyk, who sat out the past six games with a lower-body injury, served as the backup against the Stars. ... Wild RW Nino Niederreiter remained out of the lineup for the second straight game because of an injury suffered Dec. 22 at Florida. ... Minnesota D Gustav Olofsson was a healthy scratch for the seventh straight game.