“Because it was Mike’s night the guys really wanted to play hard for him,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “The guys really wanted to cap it off and make it a special night for him. You have to give the guys in the room a lot of credit for that. The buzz in the building was awesome, the fans were awesome. That game had playoff atmosphere and playoff intensity.”
But the win came at a cost as the team lost goaltender Kari Lehtonen to a head injury in the third period. Lehtonen was injured when Wild forward Erik Haula ran him over in the crease with 13:23 left in the game, leaving Lehtonen, who suffered a cut to his head, down on the ice for a few minutes before heading to the locker room.
"Obviously, it's not good,” Ruff said. “He went in hard, hit the crossbar hard. The likelihood is it's a concussion on just a dirty play. He should be suspended. A fourth liner takes out our goaltender.”
Haula received a major penalty for charging and a game misconduct.
“You watch the replay and (Haula), he’s trying to make a play to score a goal,” said Wild coach Mike Yeo. “He gets tripped up a little bit. There’s really nowhere for him to go, so I would say it’s incidental but what can you do?”
The penalty on Haula turned out to be the turning point in the game for the Stars, who were down 3-2 at the time. Tyler Seguin took a pass from Erik Cole, drove the net and scored on the rebound of his own shot with just 26 seconds left on the five minute power play to the game with 8:49 remaining in the third.
“Special teams are going to win games in a playoff type game like that was tonight,” said Seguin. “On that power play we were trying to do too many things, it wasn’t clicking and I thought when I got the puck again I was just going to take it to the net. I got my own rebound there and luckily it went in.”
Four minutes after the Seguin goal, Cole picked off a Keith Ballard pass at the Dallas blue line, broke in all alone on net and beat Wild goaltender Darcy Kuemper to put the Stars up 4-3 with 4:49 remaining.
“(Stars video coordinator) Kelly Forbes showed us video on the goalies beforehand and they had a shootout recently that went seven rounds,” Cole said. “I probably watched it two times through just seeing what his tendencies were and (Kuemper) is pretty patient. I knew I was shooting the whole way, just kind of waiting to pick my spot.”
Tim Thomas, who took over in goal when Lehtonen was injured, stopped all six shots he faced to pick up a win in his first appearance as a Dallas Star.
“With the five minute power play right off the bat it allowed me to settle in,” Thomas said, “and adjust and think the rest of it through to being a very important win for us and kind of get my mindset focus right to do what I could do, which didn’t have to be much which was great. It was in a certain way one of the easiest wins I’ve ever gotten in my career, but it was great to see the team comeback.”
The win pulled the Stars (31-23-10) to within three points of the seventh-place Wild and pushed their lead to three points over Phoenix in the race for eighth place in the Western Conference.
The loss snapped a five-game winning streak for the Wild, who overcame 1-0 and 2-1 deficits to take a 3-2 lead early in the third period before the Stars rallied.
“Let’s be honest, we fought hard all game long and kept battling back and were able to grab the lead and then all of sudden you take a five-minute major and another mistake after that and you find yourself down, so it’s tough,” said Yeo. “But I also would say that mistake was kind of coming all night long. We turned over way too many pucks tonight all night long and we gave up way too many odd-man rushes and I don’t feel like we were on top of our game the same way. We gave up more odd-man rushes tonight than we gave up in the last month.”
The Stars struck quickly, taking a 1-0 lead 31 seconds into the game when Rich Peverley set up Jamie Benn off the rush and Benn scored off a wrist shot from the right circle.
Minnesota drew even late in the period with the Stars on the power play. Erik Haula tallied off a shot from the left circle to make it a 1-1 game with 2:28 left in the period.
The Stars got the lead back at 1:55 of the second when a Seguin shot got behind Kuemper, and Alex Chiasson swept it into the net to make it a 2-1 game.
The Wild bounced back to tie at 11:15 of the second when Charlie Coyle scored off a scramble in front of Lehtonen to make it a 2-2 game.
Minnesota grabbed a 3-2 lead at 1:23 of the third after the Stars turned over the puck in their own zone and Kyle Brodziak scored from the left circle, but the Stars rallied and got a big win for the team on a big night for Mike Modano.
“It was just a special night and a big two points,” said Cole. “And it was real nice to get a win for (Mike Modano).”
Quotable: Tim Thomas on fan reaction to his saves
“I was very honored with the reaction I got and I did notice it on the saves, but some of the saves were so easy that they were doing it on I was wondering if it was for the saves or something else going on around me (laughing). But no, it was great, the crowd was awesome tonight. Actually the crowd has been great both nights I’ve been here, but obviously tonight they set a new attendance record and all that’s happened tonight on Mike Modano night it’ll be a night I’ll never forget.”
*The Stars improved to 10-3-2 over their last 15 games, including 4-2-0 since the Olympic break.
*The Stars are 8-2-1 in their last 11 games at home.
*The Stars were 2-5 on the power play and 3-4 on the penalty kill.
*The Stars outshot the Wild 38-35 in the game. Seguin led the Stars with six shots on goal. Alex Chiasson had five shots.
*The Stars won 33 of 67 (49 percent) of faceoffs. Shawn Horcoff won 5 of 6. Jamie Benn won 5 of 11. Cody Eakin won 5 of 12. Vernon Fiddler won 9 of 21.
*Tyler Seguin’s one goal and two assists in the game give me eight points (four goals, four assists) over the last two games.
Jamie Benn – Tyler Seguin – Rich Peverley
Erik Cole – Cody Eakin – Alex Chiasson
Antoine Roussel – Vernon Fiddler – Ryan Garbutt
Ray Whitney – Shawn Horcoff – Valeri Nichushkin
Alex Goligoski – Trevor Daley
Jordie Benn – Brenden Dillon
Kevin Connauton – Sergei Gonchar
Scratched: Aaron Rome
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 DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.