The Dallas Stars would take their show to the road once again, meeting a Minnesota Wild club in their famously hard to play in barn in St. Paul. To say this game was a big one for the Stars was an understatement. After a brutal 5-2 home loss to the lowly Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday, the Stars needed to quickly refocus.
However, the Central waits for no man or team.
The Stars would meet the wounded Wild, losers of three in a row, for the second time this season, after dropping the first meeting at the American Airlines Center 3-1. The Wild this season can be tried for underperforming their pre season expectations. The same could be said for the Stars as well. Going into the tilt this evening, the Stars and Wild had nearly identical records (17-15-3 for Dallas and 17-15-2 for Minnesota), and were separated by a mere point in the tight Western Conference standings.
Both teams were in need of a win to climb back into the reaches of the 8th Wild Card spot as the NHL approached the Christmas break.
The game would begin in St. Paul with both teams possessing the puck early, in the attempt to implement their game plans. The game took on the style of two teams who struggle to score goals, as the defenses and goaltenders would settle in early.
The Wild would receive the first chance to put their mark on the game courtesy of a Jamie Benn unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, early in the period. The Stars penalty kill would rise to the challenge, living up to their reputation as one of the best kills in the NHL. As the period progressed, both teams would trade scoring chances, but Bishop and Dubnyk would be up to the task each time.
The Stars would receive the balance of the calls to end the period, as they would have two late PowerPlay opportunities. The first came roughly fifteen minutes into the period when Nick Seeler fouled Blake Comeau with a cross check. The Wild would kill of the first bit of danger only to place themselves back in the box less than two minutes later. Luke Kunin would hook onto Radek Faksa giving the Stars their second chance with the man advantage, and a late chance to open the scoring. However, the Stars power play would continue to struggle, bearing no fruit in their second chance.
Dallas 0 Minnesota 0
After a scoreless first period, the Wild and Stars would once again start a period with little offense but plenty to talk about. Jamie Benn and the Stars escaped a high sticking minor in the early moments of the period, which would have given the Wild a momentum swing to start. The game began to pick up at the 5 minute mark when the Wild came close to scoring on a great chance in the crease, only to be thwarted by Bishop. The sequence would be an unfortunate one for Minnesota, as Zach Parise would take a tripping minor, sending Dallas to their third power play of the evening.
The Stars special teams opportunity would be less an advantage for them, as the Wild quickly attacked the Dallas unit with a breakaway and a prime Eric Staal scoring chance. Bishop would turn out to a wall, preserving the scoreless tie. The period would progress to the later stages, seeing both teams open up the game a bit. The two clubs would trade shots, with both goaltenders keeping with the theme of the game by turning them away.
The game was starting to take an edge to it and Roman Polak would interject a new tone into the game by absolutely thrashing Luke Kunin in front of the Stars bench. However, the fight would see Polak rack up nineteen minutes of penalties for roughing, instigating the violence, fighting, and a ten minute misconduct. The ensuing four minute advantage for the Wild would yield nothing, as the Stars penalty kill suffocated them, whose best chances came as the advantage wound down.
The late stages of the period would reward Dallas for a pesky shift in the Minnesota end when Val Nichushkin worked himself into drawing a tripping minor on Mikko Koivu. The Stars fourth power play of the night would end scoreless, as would the second period.
Score: Dallas 0 Minnesota 0
The third period would start with a bang for the Stars as Jamie Benn pounded home a feed from Alexander Radulov, that would squirt loose in the Wild crease. The play was a result of a key faceoff win and excellent puck pursuit by Radulov. The Stars would come close to extending the lead to 2-0 a shift later when both Radek Faksa and Jason Spezza would have glorious chances at Dubnyk.
The period would continue on with the Stars mauling the Wild defense, until finally, Devin Dubnyk and the Wild caught their breathes and took some of the pressure off. However, the Stars appeared the quicker and hungrier club following the goal, beating the Wild to loose pucks with regularity. The Wild would mount a charge at the ten minute mark when Mikael Granlund would hit a pipe over Bishop’s shoulder, with Bishop absorbing a drive into his chest seconds later.
As the period would progress past the midway point, the Stars would still show signs of control over the game, but the Wild were starting to mount a challenge. Consecutive shifts would end with a dangerous shot on the Stars net, with key defensive zone faceoffs to the left and right of Bishop. The Wild would posses the puck for a lengthy amount of time off of these faceoffs, feeding their points and funneling pucks at and around the Dallas net. Bishop would continue his brilliance, keeping the Stars lead intact.
The game would see a wild sequence with four minutes to go as Radulov and Tyler Seguin would break for a 2-on-1 towards the Wild net. Radulov would have the pass to Seguin taken away, and would instead look to pass to the trailing Jamie Benn. The pass would result in a turnover and a two on one for the Wild going the other way. Eric Staal would carry the puck into the Dallas zone, but again Bishop would thwart his scoring chance while losing his mask in the process. Somewhere Doc Emrick was yelling with excitement.
The Stars would go into a shell within the last three minutes of the period and would pay dearly for it. The Wild would funnel a puck towards the Dallas net where Mikael Granlund’s initial shot was stopped by Bishop, but Jason Zucker would be there to put the Wild on the board.
The Stars would start overtime without hero Jason Dickenson who was lost for the match with an upper body injury. The Stars would lose the opening draw, being forced to defend and defend quite dangerously, as the Wild came close twice in the first minute.
The game would take an insane twist as Parise and Charlie Coyle would hit a goalpost on a 2-on-1. The shot would bounce perfectly to Jason Spezza who would go with John Klingberg on their own 2-on-1. Spezza would feed Klingberg with a perfect pass, only to see that shot go off of the goal post.
The rest of the overtime would go on with a frenzied and frenetic pace, with multiple scoring chances by both clubs. After a sequence that saw incredible saves by both goaltenders and multiple odd-man rushes, the game rested on the stick of Alexander Radulov. Mattias Janmark would make a slick pass to Radulov, who would then throw the puck on net and past a stunned Dubnyk.
Stars 2 Minnesota 1