The Dallas Stars saw their winless streak hit four games (0-2-2) with a 4-1 loss to the Minnesota Wild Saturday night at Excel Energy Center.
The Stars, who were coming off a lackluster 2-1 overtime loss to Anaheim on Friday, started well Saturday night, but couldn’t cash in on some first period chances, including on the power play. The Wild made the most of their opportunities in the second period, including on the power play, and took control of the game.
“There is energy missing in our game. It is as simple as that,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “We are getting beat to pucks. We are not winning enough of the small battles. It is as simple as that. The energy level of our team isn’t good enough to win games. We started off good, but the energy level slowly declined and they took over the game. That’s something we take pride in, being able to keep the energy in the game up and keep the speed of the game way up. These last two games haven’t been good for that.”
Special teams play was key again Saturday night. The Stars were 0-6 in Friday’s game and they were 0-4 Saturday and missed on a 1:18 five-on-three power play in the first period. Minnesota, which came into the game 0-27 on the power play, scored twice with the man-advantage.
“We have to give some props to our penalty kill, too,” said Wild coach Mike Yeo. “Huge five-on-three kill. And on the power play, we were due.”
Vernon Fiddler scored the lone goal for the Stars. Kari Lehtonen started in goal for Dallas and stopped 20 of 24 shots. The 0-2-2 stretch has the Stars at 4-3-4 on the season.
“The penalties, the turnovers, you can go down the list. There is a bunch of things we have to correct to be a successful team,” Fiddler said. “Things were coming easy to us at the beginning of the year and now we are starting to find a little bit of an uphill stretch here. Good teams find a way to work through it. That’s what we are going to have to do.”
The Wild outshot the Stars 12-8 in a scoreless first period, but Dallas had its chances. Alex Goligoski rang a shot off the post just under nine minutes into the game. The Stars had back-to-back power plays in the period, including 1:18 of five-on-three time, but failed to score and were outshot 3-1 during the sequence.
“There wasn’t enough energy on the five-on-three,” Ruff said. “We didn’t make good decisions. Actually, I think it gave them a lift.”
The Wild outscored the Stars 3-1 in the second period. Mikael Granlund gave the Wild a 1-0 lead at the 4:21 mark, picking off a Jordie Benn pass in the Dallas zone and scoring off a shot from the slot.
Wild defenseman Matt Dumba made it a 2-0 game, beating a screened Lehtonen on a blast from just inside the blue line at the 13:14 mark. But seven seconds later the Stars answered when Fiddler scored from the left circle off the rush.
The Wild extended the lead to 3-1 with 57 seconds left in the period with a power play goal, their first of the season. Zach Parise sent a pass from behind the goal line to Thomas Vanek, who roofed a shot from the slot.
Minnesota extended the lead to 4-1 with another power play goal in the third period. Nino Niederreiter deflected a Ryan Suter shot past Lehtonen at the 5:03 mark to round out the scoring in the game.
The Stars next play Tuesday against Los Angeles at American Airlines Center. That game will kick off a three-game homestand.
“We just have to come out with a better effort,” said Stars captain Jamie Benn. “You are going to have your ups and downs throughout a year. We’ve got to find a way to bring a lot of energy and play the right way and take advantage of these home games we have coming up.”
Hemsky injured, leaves game
*Stars forward Ales Hemsky left Saturday’s game late in the second period with an upper body injury and did not return. Stars coach Lindy Ruff did not reveal much after the game.
“Just upper body. He couldn’t go,” Ruff said. “Hopefully, he’ll be OK.”
*Forward Valeri Nichushkin had one assist and two shots on goal in his second game with the Texas Stars, who lost 4-3 in overtime at Lake Erie Saturday night. Nichushkin is with Texas on a conditioning assignment. He is expected to return to Dallas soon and could be in the lineup for Tuesday’s game against Los Angeles.
*The Wild outshot the Stars 30-20.
*Jamie Benn led the Stars with six shots on goal.
*Minnesota blocked 23 shots in the game. Wild goaltender Darcy Kuemper made 19 saves.
*Dallas was 0-4 on the power play and 2-4 on the penalty kill.
*Dallas won 27 of 52 faceoffs (52 percent).
*Vernon Fiddler won 11 of 17 faceoffs (65 percent). Jason Spezza won 8 of 13 (62 percent). Cody Eakin won 3 of 9 (33 percent).
*Trevor Daley led the Stars with 28:25 of ice time. Alex Goligoski was next with 27:04.
Jamie Benn – Jason Spezza – Tyler Seguin
Antoine Roussel – Cody Eakin – Ryan Garbutt
Patrick Eaves – Vernon Fiddler – Ales Hemsky
Erik Cole – Shawn Horcoff – Colton Sceviour
Alex Goligoski – Trevor Daley
Jordie Benn – Brenden Dillon
Jyrki Jokipakka – Jamie Oleksiak
Scratched: D Kevin Connauton
Conditioning assignment: RW Valeri Nichushkin
Injured: D Sergei Gonchar (ankle), D Patrik Nemeth (arm laceration)
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.