Jason Spezza and Jiri Hudler returned from injury for the Dallas Stars Saturday night, but it wasn't enough to get the Stars offense on track and crack Devan Dubnyk and the Minnesota Wild. Dubnyk posted his third straight shutout as the Wild defeated the Stars, 4-0, at Xcel Energy Center.
The loss was the fourth in the past five games for the Stars, who fell to 3-4-1 on the season. It's the first time they have been below .500 since December 2014. They were shutout for the second time in the past four games.
"It's obviously not the greatest time around here, but we've got to keep working hard. We can't get frustrated," Stars captain Jamie Benn said. "We've got to stick together and work our way out of this."
"Obviously, we haven't had the results that we want," Spezza said. "We have to get back to finding our game and be a little more consistent with it."
The Stars outshot the Wild 29-15 and had a 64-36 edge in shot attempts, but the Wild executed on special teams and the Stars didn't. The Stars were 0-3 on the power play and allowed a shorthanded goal that gave the Wild the early lead. Minnesota scored on one of its two power play chances.
"We've got to be scoring on the power play and not giving up these shorthanded goals, especially early in the game," Benn said.
It was a record-setting night for the Wild, who posted a third consecutive shutout for the first time in franchise history and established a new franchise record for team shutout streak at 181:43. Dubnyk set a new franchise record for longest individual shutout streak at 180:00.
"I am a big fan of wins," Dubnyk said. "I don't worry too much about shutouts, but when you have a week like that, I'll have tonight and tomorrow to enjoy it and get back to work on Monday."
Dubnyk got the only goal he would need in the first period when his teammates scored shorthanded on Dallas' first power play of the night. Mikko Koivu set up Mikael Granlund, who slipped the puck past Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen on an odd-man rush at the 5:35 mark.
The Stars came close to tying the game twice at even strength in the first. Adam Cracknell tipped a Johnny Oduya point shot, and it hit the post. Jason Spezza hit the post later in the period.
The Stars controlled play in the second period, outshooting the Wild 13-1, but they couldn't find the back of the net. Their best chance came late in the period when Patrick Eaves redirected a Tyler Seguin centering pass on goal, but it was turned away by Dubnyk.
"We didn't give up a lot, dominated the second period," said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. "We had a couple of pucks go off the post and didn't go in. Their goaltender is seeing the puck pretty well right now, and we didn't have a lot of puck luck when it came to being around the net."
The Wild blew the game open with three goals in the third. Nino Niederreiter scored from the left wall at the 3:08 mark to make it a 2-0 game. Eric Staal made it 3-0, scoring off a one-timer from the right circle with Minnesota on the power play at the 10:54 of the third. And rookie Tyler Graovac rounded out the scoring with his first NHL goal, taking a slick backhand pass from Jason Zucker and tallying from close range to make it 4-0 Minnesota at 12:37 of the third period.
After that, it was a matter of whether the Stars could end the Wild and Dubnyk's shutout streak, and they couldn't.
Hamhuis sits, Johns back in
Stars coach Lindy Ruff made some changes on defense for Saturday's game, bringing Stephen Johns back into the lineup and sitting veteran Dan Hamhuis as a healthy scratch.
"It's always tough," Ruff said of sitting a veteran like Hamhuis. "I think he has struggled a little bit. That's not the easy part of the game, but at the same time, we've got to win games. We've had some guys in and out, and they understand if they don't play well they might not play."
Johns returned to the lineup after sitting out two games as a healthy scratch.
"I think for him, he struggled for a couple games and to get back in and get going again, he's a big part of where we want to go," Ruff said of Johns. "I think having that right-handed shot back there helps our puck movement. I thought our puck movement, even though we had lefties in there, was good, but he is part of the group that we need to be effective."
*Jiri Hudler played 15:36 and had 3 shot attempts in his return after missing five games due to illness.
*Jason Spezza played 15:05 and had 1 shot on goal and 3 shot attempts in his return after missing two games due to a lower-body injury.
*Brett Ritchie led the Stars with 6 shots on goal and 8 shot attempts. Patrick Eaves and Jordie Benn both had 7 shot attempts.
*The Stars have allowed four power-play goals in the past three games and have allowed at least one power-play goal in six of their eight games this season.
*The Stars are 2-20 on the power play over the past four games.
*The Stars won 29 of 61 faceoffs (48 percent).
*Jamie Benn won 5 of 9 faceoffs (56 percent). Devin Shore won 7 of 14 (50 percent). Radek Faksa won 5 of 10 (50 percent). Tyler Seguin won 5 of 11 (45 percent).
*John Klingberg led the Stars with 23:02 of ice time.
Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Patrick Eaves
Antoine Roussel - Radek Faksa - Jason Spezza
Lauri Korpikoski - Devin Shore - Jiri Hudler
Curtis McKenzie - Adam Cracknell - Brett Ritchie
Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Johnny Oduya - Stephen Johns
Patrik Nemeth - Jordie Benn
Scratched: Dan Hamhuis, Jamie Oleksiak, Gemel Smith
Injured: Ales Hemsky (groin), Patrick Sharp (concussion-like symptoms). Cody Eakin (knee), Mattias Janmark (knee)
This story was not subject to approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.