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Stars end tough stretch of schedule with 2-1 loss to Wild

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

The Dallas Stars have gone through a rough part of their schedule, and it’s led to a rough stretch of hockey as well. The Stars, playing their ninth game in 15 days, fell to the Minnesota Wild, 2-1, Saturday night at American Airlines Center. It was the fourth loss in the past five games for the Stars.

“We all have to be better. I have to be better. Everyone has to be better. We all know that,” said Stars center Jason Spezza. “We’re not going to hide behind the fact that we were tired the last couple weeks here. It’s been a tough stretch for everyone. We’ve got to be better. It starts with me. I think we can all get a bit better.”

The Stars started strong Saturday, but they stumbled in the second period and fell behind 2-0. They outshot the Wild 16-4 in the third period and cut the lead to one on a power-play goal by Jamie Benn, but couldn’t get the equalizer.

“I thought we came out with real good energy that faded and then we had a real good push again in the third period,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “I think the break is going to be good for our club. Obviously, it’s been a grind, and it would have been nice to go into the break with a win.”

The Stars (29-11-4) are 1-3-1 in their past five games and 3-4-2 in the nine games since the NHL’s holiday break.

The Wild (22-11-8) improved to 4-1-2 over their past seven games. Devan Dubnyk stopped 34 of 35 shots for the Wild, who won for the first time in four attempts against the Stars this season.

“I feel really good about how we’ve kind of come together since Christmas,” Dubnyk said. “We’ve been playing some really good hockey and starting to feel kind of that way that we need to play to continue to win.”

The Stars outshot the Wild 11-6 in a scoreless first period. The Stars appeared to take the lead at 4:46 of the first when John Klingberg scored from the right circle, but Minnesota challenged saying Dallas forward Antoine Roussel interfered with Dubnyk. After a video review, the goal was waved off because the referee determined that Roussel prevented Dubnyk from doing his job in his crease.

“I think that’s going to be a 50/50,” Ruff said of the call. “I think on a different night that would be a goal. It’s a tough one.”

“They got the call right,” said Dubnyk. “He’s got both feet in my crease. They kept showing the replay [on the scoreboard] from behind that you can’t see that his leg comes into my stick and my blocker, which doesn’t allow me to make the save. If you watch it, my arm doesn’t even move towards the puck because it can’t. To get the fans going, they kept showing the replay from behind and you can’t see that. Obviously, they had some other looks in the booth, and I think they made the right call on that one.”

The Wild took a 1-0 lead at 3:34 of the first when Jarret Stoll backhanded the puck on net, and Ryan Carter scored after the puck rebounded off traffic.

The Wild extended their lead to 2-0 at 11:20 of the second period. A pass by Stars center Cody Eakin deflected off the stick of Wild forward Charlie Coyle right to Minnesota’s Thomas Vanek, who broke in alone on net and beat Niemi with a backhand shot.

Niemi came up with two big saves in the first half of the third period to keep the Stars within two goals, stopping Jason Zucker on a breakaway and then turning away a close range bid by Nino Niederreiter.

The Stars cut the lead to 2-1 when Jamie Benn put home the rebound of a Patrick Sharp shot with 3:13 remaining, but the Stars couldn’t get the tying goal. They came close, though. Dubnyk stopped a point-blank bid by Benn with 1:00 remaining to preserve the Wild lead and victory.

The Stars will now get a five-day break before their next game, which is Friday in Anaheim. They’ll get Sunday and Monday off and then resume practices on Tuesday.

“Everyone is just looking forward to a couple days off here to recharge and get a couple of practices in,” said Stars defenseman Alex Goligoski. “We probably have had one practice in the last two weeks. That’s where you create your habits. It will be nice to have a little time off here.”

*The Stars are 8-3-1 vs. the Central Division.

*The Stars lost for just the second time in their past 11 home games (9-2-0).

*Stars forward Patrick Sharp extended his points streak to 12 games (6 goals, 9 assists).

*The Stars outshot the Wild 35-25 and had an 82-43 advantage in attempted shots.

*Patrick Sharp, Jamie Benn and Valeri Nichushkin led the Stars with six shots on goal.

*Nichushkin and Sharp led the Stars with ten attempted shots.

*Stars goaltender Antti Niemi stopped 23 of 25 shots.

*The Stars were 1-2 on the power play and 1-1 on the penalty kill.

*The Stars won 29 of 55 faceoffs (53 percent).

*Jason Spezza won 11 of 15 faceoffs (69 percent). Cody Eakin won 6 of 10 (60 percent). Vernon Fiddler won 7 of 14 (50 percent). Tyler Seguin won 1 of 7 (14 percent).

*Alex Goligoski led the Stars with 24:16 of ice time.

*Saturday’s attendance was 18,532, a sellout. It was the sixth straight sellout for the Stars and the 13th of the season.

The Stars now get a five-day break between games. Their next game is Friday at Anaheim, where they will kick off a three-game road trip through California.

Mattias JanmarkTyler SeguinPatrick Sharp

Antoine RousselJason SpezzaValeri Nichushkin

Jamie BennCody EakinColton Sceviour

Radek FaksaVernon FiddlerPatrick Eaves

Alex Goligoski
John Klingberg

Johnny OduyaJason Demers

Jyrki JokipakkaJamie Oleksiak

Antti Niemi

Kari Lehtonen

Jordie Benn (lower body), Ales Hemsky (lower body)

Scratched: Travis Moen, Patrik Nemeth

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.

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