Then the wheels, along with the ball bearings, axles and probably the transmission as well, came off as the Stars gave up three stunning defensive breakdown goals over a span of 61 seconds.
Cal Clutterbuck tied the game two and a half minutes after Larsen's first NHL goal, then Chad Rau used a solid helping of Brenden Morrow's stick to score his first career goal 14 seconds later. Kyle Brodziak wrapped up the carnage after the Wild went cross ice twice and pulled several players completely out of position to cap off what would be the defining stretch of this game and maybe this portion of the schedule.
A goalie change didn't make much of a difference as the Stars got caught pressing early in the third period and Dany Heatley beat Richard Bachman on a 2-on-1. But the story of the game was already written by that point.
The funny thing is, until the collapse, the Stars had done basically what they wanted in terms of dictating the offensive chances and the overall work rate. But the wheels came off in such an epic fashion that whatever good they did do was pretty well nullified.
The Stars have two days off to lick their wounds before limping into the all-star break with a game against the Anaheim Ducks.
More on this game after the jump.
- This game is hard for me to wrap my head around because in many ways, it's much better than what the team threw out there against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The players were mentally checked in from the puck drop, they created some pretty solid chances and they generally dictated most of the early part of the game. But when it all came apart, boy did it come apart in spectacular fashion.
- So what does that show? Well, that's open for interpretation at the point. But I do think the composure of the group has to face some pretty serious questions. It's one thing to allow one and even two goals, especially when one is a flukey tip off of a guy attempting to make a good defensive play. But the way they just got running around after the goals is pretty unacceptable and needs to change immediately. It's not just one player or four or five of them. Someone, somehow has to step up and take control of the team mentally to keep this from happening again.
- Only a few players escaped this game without a minus - Stephane Robidas, Radek Dvorak, Eric Nystrom, Steve Ott and Sheldon Souray were all even while Adam Burish and Vernon Fiddler were the only players to finish the game +1. Two guys finished at -2 - Tom Wandell and Michael Ryder, who were both out there fourth pretty backbreaking goal by Brodziak. The only players not out there for any Minnesota goal were Ott, Burish and Fiddler.
- Speaking of Nystrom, one of the positives in this game was seeing him score his 14th goal of the season against his former team. It was a beautiful tip on a Robidas shot, something the Stars basically repeated with the Larsen goal. Big props to the young Dane for his first career NHL goal. May it be the first of many.
- As for the defensive side of defense tonight, Larsen included? Not so hot. Most of the Wild goals were the direct result of defensive breakdowns, whether that was someone trying to fly the zone too early before possession was secure or making an ill-advised pinch. With the offense as anemic as it has been since Jamie Benn and Mike Ribeiro went down, the Stars can't afford to be making poor decisions like that.
- There's been a lot of discussion about heart, grit and whatnot, but tonight's game to me was about talent and the decided lack thereof on the offensive end without the top two centers. Now, one can absolutely make an argument the Wild are just as riddled with injuries. But I like the Wild's top wingers ability to create on their own more than the motley crew the Stars are throwing out there. Devin Setoguchi and Dany Heatley both made really solid plays tonight, and both scored goal-scorers goals. While I love Loui Eriksson, he's more of an all-around player than a dynamic offensive force, and Michael Ryder needs a good setup guy. Combine that with the Wild's supporting cast being more effective at creating offense on Saturday, and you have this game if you throw in a side helping of complete defensive failure for one minute.
- It also reiterates to me just how bad an idea it would be to shop someone like Mike Ribeiro. Wandell has done an admirable job of trying to fill in, but this team desperately, desperately needs players with puck poise and playmaking ability on the top two lines. Hopefully both should be back either for or right after the Anaheim game. It can't happen soon enough.
- The numbers won't look good for either of the goalies tonight, but neither had much help. Kari Lehtonen was hung out to dry repeatedly, and he made some solid saves before the Wild's offensive outburst. Richard Bachman was fine in relief.
- And again, I don't think this game is as bad as Friday's. It might make me angrier because of how it went down, but I think there is at least more to build on. I am a little sad that's what it's come down to, though.
- So how do you fix the Stars? I don't think it's nearly as straightforward as trading all the veterans, especially given many have no-trade clauses. But things are getting too concerning to just wait for the team's centers to return to full health. That's why they pay Joe Nieuwendyk and Glen Gulutzan the big bucks.