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game recap

Stars push Wild to brink with Game 4 win

Strong second period gives Dallas 3-1 lead in Western Conference series

by Dan Myers / Correspondent

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- They don't have to be pretty this time of year, they just have to go in.

The Dallas Stars scored three second-period goals, including two off deflections, in a 3-2 win against the Minnesota Wild in Game 4 of the Western Conference First Round at Xcel Energy Center on Wednesday.

Dallas leads the best-of-7 series 3-1 with Game 5 at American Airlines Center on Friday (9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN360, TVA Sports, FS-N, FS-WI, FS-SW).

Video: DAL@MIN, Gm4: Spezza deflects puck off skate for lead

The Stars twice answered Wild goals with a goal. None of their three will likely be among the top plays on the highlight shows.

"It's hard to score the pretty ones," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. "Both teams defend really well, so it's about trying to get that edge inside and trying to find a way to get the puck to go in the back of the net."

Ales Hemsky, Patrick Eaves and Jason Spezza scored goals for the Stars, and Antti Niemi made 28 saves playing for the first time in the series.

"We've stayed with the program with both [goaltenders], we're comfortable using both of them, and both these guys have done a real good job," Ruff said of Niemi and Kari Lehtonen. "[Niemi's] energy in practice and work ethic and how he looked was, just comfortable putting him in. He gave us a great game."

Video: DAL@MIN, Gm4: Coyle settles puck and beats Niemi

Jason Pominville and Charlie Coyle scored for the Wild, and Devan Dubnyk made 19 saves.

Two Dallas goals came on the power play after the Stars began the series 1-for-13. The difference was elementary.

"We finally started shooting pucks," Stars captain Jamie Benn said. "There's a lot of power plays, it seems like, in these playoffs. You watch other teams and they're just shooting the puck and good things happen. We figured that's what they were doing, and it turned out to be pretty good."

Minnesota scored first for the first time in the series. The Wild were 33-8-5 this season when scoring first, the eighth-best record in the NHL.

Video: DAL@MIN, Gm4: Eaves tips the puck for power-play goal

The Wild took that 1-0 lead at 5:01 of the second period. Erik Haula's shot from the high slot was stopped by Niemi, but the rebound went right to Nino Niederreiter, who banked in the puck off Pominville's skate. It was Pominville's third goal of the series.

Dallas took advantage of a delay of game penalty on Minnesota when Hemsky's shot from the point got through traffic and past Dubnyk at 9:11 for a 1-1 tie.

Coyle gave the Wild a 2-1 lead on a breakaway, fighting off a backcheck by Stars defenseman Alex Goligoski and settling down a bouncing puck before pulling it to his backhand and slipping it past Niemi at 10:14.

Dallas made it 2-2 with a power-play goal at 13:24 when Eaves tipped a point shot by defenseman Kris Russell, and took a 3-2 lead off a rush chance at 18:51 when Jason Demers' centering pass deflected past Dubnyk off Spezza's skate in the slot.

"They feed a lot off their power play and tonight was a good example of it," Pominville said. "When you lose the special-teams battle, you're usually not going to win the game. That's what happened."

Video: DAL@MIN, Gm4: Pominville has puck deflect off him

Minnesota outshot Dallas 14-2 in the third period but was limited to shots from the perimeter.

"We kept doing the same thing we've done pretty good so far; blocking shots, blocking the lanes so they can't get it through there straight," Niemi said.

The Wild got Dubnyk to the bench for the extra attacker with 2:15 remaining. Dallas killed the final 1:24 of the game shorthanded following a high-sticking penalty on Antoine Roussel.

"We have 2:14, pulled the goalie there, and then got a power play, and had an opportunity," Wild coach John Torchetti said. "There was 1:24 left, and you've got 6-on-4. You have to execute there and get better chances."

Video: MIN Recap: Coyle, Pominville score in Game 4 loss

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