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Critical penalty kill turns tide for Wild in win over Stars

Minnesota scores short-handed, doesn't allow a shot in momentum-shifting first-period kill

by Dan Myers @DanMyers /

ST. PAUL -- For the first 15 minutes of its game against the Dallas Stars at Xcel Energy Center on Thursday, the Wild didn't bring much to the table.

A turnover 2:51 into the game ended up in its own net when Jamie Benn finished off a one-timer on a feed from Tyler Seguin. The Wild wasn't generating much of anything in the offensive zone. 

Then, moments after killing a holding penalty by Charlie Coyle, Ryan Murphy was called for a double minor for high sticking Dallas' Antoine Roussel.

At that moment, the game could have gone completely sideways. Instead, it changed the game.

Just 12 seconds into the Stars' power play, it was Mikael Granlund leading a 2-on-1 rush with Mikko Koivu, rifling a shot past Dallas goaltender Kari Lehtonen for his 20th goal, one that tied the game at one apiece.

"I mean as opposed to going down 2-nothing or even giving them a lot of momentum, we get a shorty, crowd gets into it a little bit and gives us some life going into the second period," said Wild forward Zach Parise. "That was potentially a game-changing play."

What started with offense concluded with determined killing as the Wild didn't allow as much as a shot on goal during the power play. 

At that point, the momentum had officially turned. 

"I don't think we started the game really good. It wasn't a really good start for us," Granlund said. "[The penalty kill] and that goal kind of got us momentum to go into the second period."

The Wild carried that momentum into the second period, where it scored three goals, including two in the span of 59 seconds midway through, to take a 3-1 lead.

After Dallas scored to get back within one, the backbreaker came with 10.1 seconds left in the period when the Wild scored its second power-play goal of the night when Jason Zucker finished a 3-on-2 rush up the ice.

Video: Bruce Boudreau postgame vs. Stars

"We were down 1-0 and they can make it 2-0 and potentially 3-0 at that point, and we score the goal while we're shorthanded," said Wild coach Bruce Boudreau. "It was a big turning point and it gave us a lot of life after that because we were pretty dead in the first 10 minutes."

Zach Parise scored his second goal of the night into the empty net with less than 20 seconds remaining in regulation to ice the game and, potentially, the Stars' playoff aspirations. Dallas can no longer catch Minnesota in the standings, and its hopes of reaching the postseason likely hinge on it winning each of its final four games while also getting plenty of help from other clubs.

The Wild now has one fewer team to worry about in its quest of reaching the playoffs for a sixth consecutive season. Just one team currently outside the playoff bubble can catch Minnesota: the Colorado Avalanche, who sit six points back with five games remaining.

"It's something we talked about, pushing more teams, making that gap even bigger and pushing more teams down," Parise said. "We know it's going to be a tough game for us in Dallas, but we got the first one. It's something we really wanted to do. I thought we played a solid game against a tough team to play against. They have some good weapons up front and we did pretty well."

Still, don't expect Boudreau to rest any easier, at least not until Minnesota can officially place that 'X' next to its name on the standings chart.

"It's getting closer as we get more points, but still when I wake up tomorrow, I'm going to say we're going to have to win two more games maybe, because our [regulation/overtime wins] aren't as high as some of the other teams," Boudreau said. "Then you look around and you're still scoreboard watching, from tonight's game I think the Kings play later on tonight, and tomorrow when we don't play we'll be watching the other teams."


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