Our fears were realized. The Dallas Stars were unable to maintain the energy and execution shown in the previous two games, and allowed the Minnesota Wild to jump out to a 2-0 lead in the first period. While the Stars were able to eventually tie the game, the Wild answered to take the lead once more. While they mounted a spirited effort in the third period, an inability to take advantage of several late power play opportunities and a stiff Minnesota defense led to just their fourth regulation loss of the season.
Alex Auld was great tonight for the Stars and was the reason Dallas even had a chance late in the game. We had our misgivings about changing out netminders while Turco has been playing so well, but Auld did the best he could while his defensemen were inflicted with the 'suddenly stupid' virus. Once again, poor coverage in front of the net and a propensity to let the opposition hack away at second, third and fourth chances led to Auld allowing several tough goals.
The Stars did get two power play goals from Loui Eriksson; one on a pass that went in off of a Wild defensemen, and the other off a brillaint pass from the point by Brad Richards. After spending the past few games having to search Eriksson out because I was convinced he'd disappeared, he came back with a roar tonight. Fabian Brunnstrom also flashed some offensive confidence and the Stars' fourth line is getting pretty savvy.
I'm not one to usually write about or complain about the officiating, but tonight it was supremely bad. The refs missed several blatant penalties for both the Wild and the Stars, and were extremely inconsistent with the calls that were made. The diving call on Brenden Morrow was laughable, and Stephane Robidas should easily have been given an interference in the final minute. If the Stars had scored just after that, the roar coming from Minnesota would have been deafening.
In the end, it was a frustrating loss for a team that feels they were on the verge of turning the corner and doing something great. They'll have to stew on this loss for four days; the next game is in San Jose on Thursday as the Stars continue their road trip.
We'll have more on this game tomorrow.