Saturday, February 25, 2012
Stars make it three straight with win over Wild
By Mark Stepneski
DALLAS -- The Dallas Stars finally won the second game of a back-to-back Friday night, and they also put together a winning streak longer than two games for the first time in more than two months. The Stars won their third straight game, defeating the Minnesota Wild 4-1 at American Airlines Center.
The three-game winning streak was the first for the Stars since December 10-15, when they won consecutive games against the Los Angeles Kings, New York Rangers and New York Islanders.
“We’ve been talking about that for a month, get some wins put together and we’re finally doing it,” said Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen, who stopped 28 of 29 shots. “It’s an interesting time of the year. Every game of the year is so important and we’re having fun.”
The Stars finally won the second game of a back-to-back, something they had failed to do in their first 11 tries this season. They are now 1-9-2 in those games.
“That was a long time coming, we were due to get it eventually and there’s no excuses tonight,” said Stars forward Eric Nystrom. “It’s huge.”
Most important, the Stars picked up two key points as they battle for a playoff spot. The Stars pulled two points ahead of Calgary and Los Angeles in the battle for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
“It’s game-by-game here and it’s going to go that way right until April,” said Stars coach Glen Gulutzan. “We’ve got to approach every day like this and get points.”
The Stars, coming off a win in Chicago the previous night, got off to a strong start Friday night, scoring two first period goals to take the lead on the Wild, who had played at Florida on Thursday night.
Tom Wandell opened the scoring 8:48 into the game, digging out a puck behind the Minnesota goal, taking it to the net and then scoring off a rebound.
The Stars added a second goal at the 17:40 mark when Michael Ryder made a pretty cross-ice pass to Loui Eriksson, who scored into the open side of the net for his 20th goal of the season.
“Ryder gave me a real good pass there in front and I had some time to do something there. I walked on the left side and put it in,” Eriksson said. “It was a nice goal and it was nice to have the lead.”
Nystrom made it a 3-0 game early in the second period, finishing off a centering pass from Radek Dvorak for his 16th goal of the season.
“Devo made a great pass and I just tried to shoot it quick and when you do that, sometimes you beat the goalie, it snuck through his legs,” said Nystrom.
That goal chased Wild starter Niklas Backstrom, who was replaced by Matt Hackett.
Minnesota finally broke through on Lehtonen in the third period when they got 40 seconds of five-on-three power play time after Steve Ott took an unsportsmanlike conduct minor and then the Stars’ bench was given a minor for abuse of officials.
Devin Setoguchi scored on the five-on-three, beating Lehtonen with a one-timer from the left circle with 7:17 remaining in the game.
“Too bad (Lehtonen) didn’t get his shutout. It was a really weak five-on-three call,” Gulutzan said. “The explanation we got (on the abuse of officials call against the bench) was not the truth. It should have never been a five-on-three. I really wish it wasn’t because he was going for back-to-back shutouts. The explanation we got for the penalty wasn’t the truth.”
A cross checking minor on Sheldon Souray gave the Wild another brief five-on-three, but the Stars were able to kill that one off.
“I don’t think it’s a Stars game if we don’t make it a little hairy,” Lehtonen said with a smile. “That’s what we do.”
Wandell scored into the empty net for his second goal of the night to make it a 4-1 final.
*Stars center Jamie Benn (leg) missed his fifth straight game.
*Minnesota captain Mikko Koivu (undisclosed) missed his fourth straight game.
*Adam Pardy was a healthy scratch for the Stars.
*The Stars have now won 16 straight games against Minnesota in Dallas. The Wild last won a game in Dallas in 2003.
*The Stars were 3-4 on the penalty kill in the game and are 17-19 over their last 6 games.
*The Stars were 0-2 on the power play.
*Tom Wandell scored two goals in a game for the first time since October 2010 (at Florida).
*Friday’s attendance was 13,144.