The Dallas Stars were desperate for a win Tuesday night and they played like it, rolling out a solid 60-minute performance in defeating the Minnesota Wild, 4-0, at American Airlines Center.
“To get the complete effort, the key saves when we needed them, the power play was good and the [penalty] kill was good,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “In a back-to-back situation, the guys summoned up a real good effort.”
It was a nice bounce back effort from Monday night’s 4-1 loss in Nashville, where not much went right for the Stars. On Tuesday, the Stars controlled play from the drop of the puck, scored the first goal of the game 13 minutes in and never looked back. They added two power play goals and a penalty shot tally.
On the other side of the puck they allowed a season-low 18 shots on goal and helped Kari Lehtonen register his second shutout of the season and the 24th of his career.
“We wanted to come out with a lot of energy and leave it on the ice,” said Stars captain Jamie Benn. “We had nothing to lose. We played a great team game today.”
The win, just the second in the last 11 games (2-8-1), kept the Stars from losing more ground in the playoff race. They are now seven points behind Minnesota, which holds the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
"As much as we've been losing, we have to come with an excited attitude,” said Stars forward Vernon Fiddler. “I think that's the only thing that really gets you out of these skids is taking positive out of games, and I think we did a pretty good job of that tonight. We came out and had a good start and we just kept going after that."
The Wild lost for just the third time in the last ten games. They put the Stars on seven power plays, gave the Stars one penalty shot and were thoroughly outplayed in the game. The Stars outshot Minnesota 36-18. The Stars had a 72-44 advantage in shots directed towards the net.
“This game goes in the garbage,” said Wild coach Mike Yeo. “We didn’t execute, we didn’t defend, we were passengers and we were spectators the whole game and this game goes in the garbage as long as we respond.”
The Stars dominated play in the first period, outshooting the Wild 12-3 and outscoring them 2-0. Fiddler got the Stars on the board at the 13:18 marking, putting a shot on net from the slot that deflected off traffic and past Wild goaltender Darcy Kuemper. It snapped a 27-game goal scoring drought for Fiddler.
“It’s been a little bit of a tough year offensively. At the end of the day I am not paid to score goals, I am paid to play defense and anytime you can score goals it is obviously nice,” Fiddler said. “It helps out your team and takes relief off your top guys. I think as we go on here down the stretch, our role players have to help out with scoring some goals.”
A little more than three minutes later the Stars extended the lead to 2-0 by cashing in on their second power play chance of the night. Erik Cole beat Kuemper with a shot from the left circle at the 16:45 mark.
The Stars extended the lead to 3-0 with their second power play goal of the game at 13:18 of the second period. Sergei Gonchar set up Ray Whitney, who made a nice move at the net to slip the puck past Kuemper.
The Stars made it a 4-0 game with 8:38 remaining in the third when Jordie Benn was awarded a penalty shot, and Benn scored, freezing Kuemper and then firing the puck into the net to round out the scoring in the game.
“I’ve done it in the minors before, and it worked,” said Benn. “It’s the only move I have. The only move I’ve ever tried, although I thought I might as well try it, and it worked again.”
And now the Stars will look for a repeat performance when they take on the Toronto Maple Leafs Thursday night at American Airlines Center.
“One’s always nice,” said Benn. “We just need to play the same way every night, and Lindy’s put together a pretty good system. If we play the way we can, hopefully we can go on a streak here.”
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.