Stars beat Wild 4-1 for third straight win
Friday, 02.24.2012 / 11:21 PM
Steve Hunt - NHL.com CorrespondentDALLAS
-- The 1,500th win in the history of the Dallas Stars
' franchise was a big one for their playoff hopes this year.
scored twice as the Stars beat the Minnesota Wild
4-1 on Friday night to strengthen their hold on eighth place in the Western Conference.
The Stars (32-26-4) improved to 68 points, two ahead of Calgary and Los Angeles, by ending an 11-game losing streak in the second half of back-to-back games. Dallas had been 0-9-2 before Friday's win, its third in a row. Dallas has outscored Montreal, Chicago and Minnesota 10-2 during the streak, and breezed to the milestone victory against a team that hasn't won in Texas in nearly nine years.
"It's just nice to get the win at home," Stars coach Glen Gulutzan said. "We came out and made a few good plays and it's nice to get the points."
and Eric Nystrom
also scored for the Stars, and Kari Lehtonen
stopped 28 of 29 shots as the Stars beat the Wild for the 16th consecutive time at the American Airlines Center. Minnesota (27-25-9) hasn't won in Dallas since March 21, 2003.
With 63 points, the Wild are now five out of a playoff berth.
"I thought that we'd have a little bit more push in that game than we did," Minnesota coach Mike Yeo said. "Our execution was really bad tonight. Everything seemed to be a broken play. We weren't together all night."
The Wild also made a move during the game, dealing 35-year-old defenseman Marek Zidlicky
to New Jersey for three players and two draft picks.
"We've battled injuries, and I think any time you can put three players on your NHL team, it certainly makes you better," GM Chuck Fletcher said. "On top of that, we were able to pick up at least one asset if not two for the future. There's elements of this trade that make us better in the long run and elements of this trade that hopefully give us a boost right now as we pursue a playoff spot."
The Stars opened the scoring at 8:48 struck first when Wandell beat Niklas Backstrom
to the glove side for his fifth goal of the year. Wandell's initial shot struck Minnesota's Nate Prosser
, who then attempted to clear the puck -- instead, he gave it right back to Wandell, who promptly flipped a shot past Backstrom.
Dallas doubled its lead at 17:40 when Eriksson scored his 20th of the season. After taking a feed from Michael Ryder
, Eriksson skated around to the left side of the net and with Backstrom on the ice, beat him top shelf.
The Stars' offensive flurry continued early in the second when Nystrom ended a 12-game pointless streak with his 16th goal of the season at 3:53. That was the last shot Backstrom faced -- rookie Matt Hackett
replaced him after he allowed three goals on 14 shots.
"We've been doing a lot of good things as a line, but we kind of got away from getting to the front of the net a little bit more," Nystrom said. "[Dvorak] 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.
Gulutzan was definitely happy to get such balanced scoring.
"We need it. We need scoring from all lines and we need it in all different ways," he said. "It's encouraging that going down the stretch, if you're getting contributions from everybody, then everybody's getting more confidence."
Just 2:50 into the final period, Stars rookie defenseman Philip Larsen
took a slap shot to the face from Minnesota center Matt Cullen
. After being helped off the ice, Larsen did not return the rest of the night with what was termed an upper body injury.
"He's got a cut on his head there, it cracked his helmet open," Gulutzan said. "He seems okay, but we just want to make sure and see how he is tomorrow. He wasn't feeling great, so he didn't come back. "
's 15th goal of the season at 12:43 of the third made it a 3-1 game. His tally came during a 5-on-3 power play for the Wild as he easily scored on a 17-foot snap into the left side of the Stars net.
Minnesota had another two-man advantage just over a minute later but Dallas was able to kill off that opportunity as well as the subsequent power play.
Hackett headed to the bench with 1:55 remaining but Wandell added an empty-netter at 19:07 to ice the win.
Both clubs return to the ice on Sunday with the Wild hosting San Jose and the Stars hosting Vancouver.