The Dallas Stars got the start they wanted Saturday night, but it was a one minute stretch of the second period that doomed then in a 5-2 loss to the Minnesota Wild at Excel Energy Center.
The Stars, who had a 2-1 lead in the game, surrendered three goals in a 59-second span, found themselves down 4-2 and could never recover.
“It’s tough. You want to respond after a team scores a goal, but when they bang a few back-to-back, it's definitely demoralizing,” Stars forward Eric Nystrom. “It gets in your psyche and momentum is huge in this game. They got on a roll and we couldn't stop it.”
The loss pushed the Stars’ winless streak to five games (0-4-1) and dropped them to 11th place in the Western Conference standings, four points out of the final playoff spot. The Stars trail ninth place Minnesota by three points.
“We are fighting for the playoffs and this is one of teams we wanted to leapfrog them with a win tonight,” said Stars captain Brenden Morrow. “Now we are three points back. We’ve got them again in a couple of weeks. Hopefully this sits in and we have some motivation.”
The Stars were excellent in the first period, outshooting the Wild 11-5 and getting the period’s only goal when Nystrom tipped a Stephane Robidas shot into the net with 1:22 left in the first to give the Stars a 1-0 lead.
But in the second period, things started to unravel for the Stars. Minnesota, which has been struggling to score recently, cashed in on its first power play to tie the game when Devin Setoguchi scored from the right circle. The Stars got the lead back on a Philip Larsen goal, but after that things completely fell apart for Dallas.
The Wild scored three quick goals to build a 4-2 lead. Cal Clutterbuck scored off a backhand shot from close range to tie the game 2-2, Chad Rau put a wrap-around shot in off Morrow’s stick to make it 3-2 and wide open Kyle Brodziak scored on a one-timer to give the Wild a 4-2 lead.
“I guess if I could get a rewind on that, after they got that 3-2 goal I maybe should have called a timeout. But I thought we could handle it as a group. That’s probably the rewind for me,” said Stars coach Glen Gulutzan. “Otherwise, we had a good 28 minutes going there, playing the way we wanted to play and we gave them life. A couple little sloppy plays, one on the penalty kill cost us a goal. Just around the net. That’s it. That’s the ballgame.”
Gulutzan pulled goaltender Kari Lehtonen, who stopped 15 of 19 shots, after two period and brought in backup Richard Bachman in hopes of changing momentum.
“[Lehtonen] made some big saves for us and we hung him to dry,” Gulutzan said. “I wasn’t going to change Kari with four minutes left in the second, he’s been too good for us to do that. That was a message to our guys that we need to be better. Then on the first shift or second shift we give up a two-on-one. I guess we did it to both guys.”
The Wild extended the lead to 5-2 early in the third period when Warren Peters set up Dany Heatley on a two-on-one rush.
The victory snapped a four-game winless streak for the Wild, who won for just the third time in their last 18 games.
For the Stars, they’ve followed up solid efforts against St. Louis and Detroit earlier in the week with rocky outings against Tampa Bay and Minnesota.
“That’s called inconsistency. You’re not going to be where you want to be if you are playing inconsistent hockey,” said Nystrom. “We had a good first 20 minutes and then we just drift away from our game plan. It eats you up. We’ve got to find a way to be more consistent in our game night in, night out, every shift. It’s not easy. That’s why some teams are where they are and why some teams aren’t where they want to be. It’s little inconsistencies.”
*The Stars are now 0-7-1 in second game of back-to-backs this season.
*D Philip Larsen was back in the lineup after sitting out the last nine games due to a concussion. He scored his first NHL goal in the game.
*Eric Nystrom’s goal was his 14th of the season.
*Mike Ribeiro (knee) missed his sixth straight game for the Stars and Jamie Benn (appendectomy) missed his fourth straight.
*Mark Fistric and Adam Pardy were healthy scratches for the Stars.
*The last time Minnesota scored four goals in a period was January 2010.