DALLAS – The Minnesota Wild's 2-1 win against the Dallas Stars on Saturday afternoon was especially sweet for the Wild.
For one, heading into the game, Minnesota was 2-6-0 on the road.
The Wild also had not enjoyed much success at American Airlines Center. Minnesota was 1-14-5 at the Dallas arena since March 2003, but thanks to a goal by Mikael Granlund 40 seconds into the third period and solid goaltending by Darcy Kuemper, the Wild flipped the script on their Central Division foe.
"In this league, there's no time for excuses, so it's nice that we came in on the road, which I think we needed," Wild center Ryan Carter said. "To get a road win, third-period win, it's huge for us."
Granlund scored his second goal of the season when Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen failed to collect the rebound off a soft wrist shot by Wild center Charlie Coyle from the right point. Granlund split two Dallas defensemen and then fired the rebound past Lehtonen.
"Yeah, Charlie (Coyle) had a real good shot there, and it came out, popped out from the back. It was like an empty net," Granlund said.
After a scoreless first period, Dallas took a 1-0 lead at 5:34 of the second period on Antoine Roussel's fifth goal. Vernon Fiddler assisted on the goal, making a solid pass from behind the Minnesota goal to Roussel, whose one-timer went into the top of the Wild net.
The Wild (9-7-0) capitalized on a Dallas turnover in the Minnesota zone to tie the game late in the second, with Erik Haula scoring his second goal of the season off the rush.
Kuemper stopped 27 of 28 shots for the Wild. He allowed two goals on two shots before being pulled 6:24 into the game against the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday.
"Real pleased with the way [Kuemper] responded," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "That was the purpose of putting him in the net. We believe that he has a lot of potential, and there's still opportunity for growth. And a big part of that is if you want to be the man, then you have to get in there and perform well after a night when things really haven't gone too well, so really pleased with that."
Dallas (6-7-4) is now 1-4-4 at home and 1-3-1 when tied after two periods.
"We have to be mentally prepared to play these games at home," Stars captain Jamie Benn said. "We have no excuses. We have to be better."
Ales Hemsky, a healthy scratch for the first time this season in the Stars' 2-0 win at the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday, picked up the secondary assist on Roussel's goal. It was the sort of response Stars coach Lindy Ruff expected from the veteran forward.
"I thought (he was) better," Ruff said. "We had some guys that didn't skate as well coming back from the trip, so I shortened it up a little bit. I was hoping to get a little bit of life. But I thought he was better."
In a game in which high-quality scoring chances were at a premium, the Wild tied it when Haula scored at 15:41 of the second.
Stars defenseman Brenden Dillon made a backhand pass that Carter picked off to ignite a rush. Carter quickly pushed up the right side of the ice, and then executed a perfect pass to Haula, who finished with a wrist shot from the left circle.
"We needed a little spark," Haula said. "Luckily we got that goal and we were able to put a couple of good shifts together in the second period there, and that kept us going."
Ruff shuffled the Stars lines throughout the game, even breaking up his top line of Benn, Jason Spezza and Tyler Seguin. Some of those changes worked but others did not.
"There wasn't much going on, so I thought I'd shuffle a little bit," Ruff said. "The (Cody) Eakin line was giving us opportunities, and the Fiddler line had a couple of looks again. I thought getting Tyler in the middle and getting him skating a little bit more, and actually they had two real good shifts as soon as they were together."
Lehtonen stopped 20 of 22 shots for Dallas before leaving the ice with 1:30 remaining.
Stars defenseman Trevor Daley feels that he and his teammates are pressing in front of their fans, leading to their rough start at American Airlines Center.
"It definitely looks that way. It's not our mentality. We came into the game [today] like it's a road game. We just got off of a good trip," Daley said. "I thought we carried most of the play, and we didn't find a way to capitalize on opportunities. We had a power play, and you don't get in the zone, that's a huge downer."
In addition to the Stars' continued home woes, Dallas is 0-4-2 against Central Division foes and 3-6-3 against overall against Western Conference teams.
"[Today] was a little bit of a different animal (than the Stars' other home losses)," Ruff said. "They did an incredibly good job of being in our shot lane. We had some good looks, we missed on a couple. We knew it was going to be a low-chance affair. Our kill was good, their first kill was good. Our second power play we had some looks but we weren't able to put it by."
Each team will complete a back-to-back Sunday; Minnesota will host the Winnipeg Jets and Dallas will visit the Chicago Blackhawks.