The streak is over for the Minnesota Wild. The Dallas Stars ended the Wild’s unbeaten string of games at 7 with a 5-3 victory tonight at the American Airlines Center. Minnesota produced a very inconsistent product tonight with a Jekyll and Hyde like performance. The same team that battled their way to a 7-4 win on 42 shots Monday looked mystified trying to stop Dallas’ power play units and was out shot 17 to 7 in the opening period tonight. With the loss the Wild’s record is now 20-11-2 good for 42 points and fourth place in the Western Conference standings. The Wild are in second place in the Northwest Division trailing the Vancouver Canucks by 2 points. Minnesota missed a chance to retake the division lead from the idle Canucks tonight as well. The Wild won’t have to wait for long for another chance though as they fly home tonight to face the Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings tomorrow evening. During his post game comments Minnesota Head Coach Mike Yeo looked toward tomorrow, “Doesn’t matter if you win, doesn’t matter if you lose, you have to get right back on the horese the next day and go at it again.” The Wild will be glad to face the Kings in the friendly confines of the Xcel Energy Center where they are a dominating 12-3-1 this season. The Stars now trail the St. Louis Blues by just a single point for the 8th and final playoff position in the Western Conference. The difference between 3rd and 10th place in the West now spans 9 points with approximately 15 games left in the regular season.
The biggest play of the game, on the goal that made the score 4-2 by Jamie Benn, saw superstar Jaromir Jagr earn the 1000th assist of his career. Jagr becomes just the 12th player in NHL history to record 1000 or more assists. Jagr joined some very elite company tonight including Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Gordie Howe, Steve Yzerman, and Mark Messier just name a few He picked up his first assist back in the 1990-91 season as an 18 year old rookie with the Pittsburgh Penguins. His point tonight gives him 1679 points (679 g, 1000 a) in his 23 year professional career. that has included stints with 5 NHL teams. I may be a Minnesota Wild fan but it felt pretty cool to watch NHL history unfold tonight.
The Wild needed to do two things tonight to give themselves a good chance of winning the game. Get off to a fast start and give their rookie goaltender some goal support. Neither happened. Dallas jumped out to a two goal lead on a power play goal by Ray Whitney and an even strength goal by Tomas Vincour. Just 7:31 into the game the Wild were down 2-0 and the Stars were peppering Wild net minder Matt Hackett with shots. Minnesota would generate just 7 shots in the 1st period. Devin Setoguchi scored on a nice pass from Matt Cullen with just 1:12 left in the opening stanza. The Wild would play better in the second period generating 12 shots to Dallas’ 11 and would tie the game with a power play goal by Jared Spurgeon. Spurgeon has a 5 game point streak going having scored a total of 2 goals and 4 assists in that span. The Wild defenseman snuck in behind the Stars penalty killers and slammed home a rebound of a Kyle Brodziak shot with 15:16 elapsed in the period. Minnesota appeared to have battled back again against Dallas but those good feelings would be short lived.
The third period saw the Stars develop an odd man rush off a neutral zone turnover and take the lead for good just 1:02 in. They would add a fourth goal just 1:08 later on a 5 on 3 power play. Mikko Koivu and Ryan Suter took simultaneous penalties for hooking and cross checking at the 2:00 mark. With two of the Wild’s best penalty killers in the box the Dallas needed only 10 seconds to score. Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said after the game, “For many parts of the game we were doing lots of good things, we gave ourselves a chance, but in the end there we didn’t get it done.” The Stars would add one more goal to make it 5-2, scoring their third power play marker of the game. That goal by Cody Eakin seemed to push the Wild’s frustrations to the boiling point. Minnesota had taken 5 minor penalties, Dallas just 2 to that point in the game. In the last 7 minutes of the period the teams would combine for a total of 48 minutes on 10 infractions. at the 13:23 mark Mike Rupp and Zenon Konopka each received 10 minutes misconducts along with Dallas’ Antoine Roussel after the two Wild players tried to dump the Star’s Reilly Smith into the Wild bench. the rough stuff would continue as former Wild and Justin Falk dropped the gloves and fought to a draw after Falk took exception to Nystrom’s hit on him in hte neutral Zone. The Wild would manage to capitalize on a delayed penalty call late in the game as Torrey Mitchell scored after Dallas Brenden Dillon punched Cal Clutterbuck behind the Dallas net. That made the final score 5-3.
The streak is over along with the pressure that goes with it for the Wild. Coach Yeo summed it up after the game saying, “The reality is this is one loss and we just won 7 games in a row before that. We have to push this one aside and get ready for tomorrow.” Saturday night the Stanley Cup Champs come calling and out Wild need to be ready. The Kings are playing well as of late going 6-4 in their last 10, however they have struggled on the road this season, posting a 7-8-1 mark. Tomorrow is a new day and a chance to start a new win streak. The Minnesota Wild are 8-2 in their last 10 games, a record I’ll take any time. A rejuvenated Niklas Backstrom will be in net and the team of 18,000 wild be on hand to cheer the boys on. GonePuckWild.com will be here as well with a Saturday morning game preview. Until then this is Scott Drain confidently saying, “LET’S GO WILD!”