The Minnesota Wild and the Dallas Stars are known as two of the stingiest teams in the National Hockey League. They could also be considered two of the most evenly matched.
The Wild and Stars tied in pretty much every statistical category on Monday night, except the one that mattered. The Stars mustered two second period goals against Manny Fernandez to escape the Xcel Energy Center with a 2-1 win. Fernandez had his six-game winning streak snapped.
Each team finished with 26 shots on goal. Both teams had similar amounts of scoring chances. And each team benefited from a crazy carom off the backboards to score a goal. Unfortunately for the Wild, that carom that led to Dallas’ goal proved to be the game-winner.
During a second period power play, Phillipe Boucher missed the Wild net with a rocket slap shot that bounced hard off the backboards, directly into the crease. The puck bounced off the back of Fernandez and back into the goal.
“He needs two eyes in the back of his head, and he’ll be fine,” joked head coach Jacques Lemaire about his goaltender who was otherwise superb throughout the night. “Or maybe just one.”
It was a costly home loss for Minnesota, which appears to be a period away from falling seven points behind Colorado in the Western Conference playoff chase. The Avalanche leads the St. Louis Blues, 3-0 after two periods of play.
“We made some little mistakes that we shouldn’t make, and they were all in the second period. I just felt the second period was our bad period.”
The first period was the Wild’s best period. It out shot the Stars 8-6, and picked up the first goal when Randy Robitaille slammed home the puck after a misfired Brian Rolston pass ricocheted off the end boards and past Stars goaltender Johan Hedberg.
But in the second, the Wild began to take costly penalties that irked coach Lemaire.
“We changed the momentum in that period with all the penalties that we got, starting with the Too Many Men penalty. It started there and a little tug here and there that we did…I just think we gave them a little bit of momentum.”
The Too Many Men penalty did not end up costing the Wild on the scoreboard. Kurtis Foster’s hooking penalty at the 10:21 mark of the second did. After 1:03 of power play time, Boucher got his lucky goal, and the Stars wouldn’t give the Wild anything the rest of the way.
Dallas doesn’t have the trapping reputation that the Wild has. But it certainly should. The Stars were tenacious in the neutral zone, and when the Wild was able to dump the puck in, Hedberg was brilliant at firing the puck right back out to help his own defensemen.
It was a frustrating game to watch, and frustrating for the players as well. With four days off before its next game, the Wild can recharge and prepare for division rival Calgary on Saturday night.
“We’ve been playing a lot of big games lately,” said Lemaire. “It will be good for them to relax their minds and come back to refocus, and get back on the winning track.”
Game Puck Goes To…
Manny Fernandez. The Wild netminder has had games where he’s made more saves, but he’s had few where he’s had to make so many spectacular stops. Just ask Niko Kapanen, whom Fernandez robbed three times in the third period alone with mind-boggling saves. Fernandez played well enough to earn his seventh straight win. All he needed were those two eyes in the back of his head like his coach suggested.
Brian Rolston. Dallas has its share of superstar forwards, but Brian Rolston was the best skater on the ice on this night. Rolston led all scorers with five shots on goal, and he ranked second on the Wild in ice time with 20:21.
The second brother vs. brother match up of the season for the Wild went to the opposition on this night. When Minnesota hosted Montreal in the battle of the Koivu brothers on December 17, it was Mikko who got the better of his brother, Saku. But Dallas’ Mathias Tjarnqvist was on the winning end of his first brother vs. brother confrontation with his older brother, Daniel.
MINNESOTA WILD NOTES:
Minnesota fell to 12-8-1 at home this season with a 2-1 loss to the Dallas Stars tonight. It was the second time this season that the Wild was held to less than two goals in a home game. The only other time the team was held to a lone goal was the team’s 3-1 loss to Vancouver on Oct. 25.
C Randy Robitaille tallied his 10th goal of the season when he put the Wild up 1-0 with a first period goal. Robitaille has now scored a goal in two straight games and in three out of his past five. He is three goals shy of his career high for goals in a season (14), a mark he reached during the 2001-2002 season.
C Brian Rolston notched an assist tonight, one game after his team-high seven game point-scoring streak was snapped in the Wild’s win over the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim Saturday. Rolston now has earned a point in 17 of his past 25 games, notching 30 points (10-20=30) in that span.
G Manny Fernandez started against the Stars for the 13th straight time tonight and stopped 24 of the 26 shots he faced in the loss. His career record against his former team now stands at 8-7-0.
Good evening State of Hockey legion! How was your Monday? Were you able to concentrate in anticipation of a big Wild home game against the Dallas Stars tonight?
I wasn't, which is why I've been fidgeting in my perch here in the Al Shaver Press Box since 9:00 AM this morning. It is here that I am watching pre-game warmups unfold before my very eyes.
As I gaze beneath me, I see that Manny Fernandez will be making his second consecutive start tonight as expected. Fernandez has started the past 12 Wild games against the Stars, and he owns the NHL's best goals against average (1.98) and save percentage (.932).
Also as expected, Pierre-Marc Bouchard is sitting out his second consecutive contest. Bouchard is recovering from a neck injury sustatained against Colorado on Thursday night. Joining Bouchard in the press box will be Filip Kuba and Derek Boogaard, tonight's healthy scratches.
The Wild is decked out in the red third jerseys for tonight's game, so it must be a big one. The Stars are sporting the road whites trimmed in green and gold, with the North Star on the chest.
Getting us started with the "Let's Play Hockey" declaration tonight is former North Star, Jack Carlson, brother of Jeff and Steve Carlson, who played Jeff and Steve Hanson in the smash hit, Slap Shot.
16:06 - The first big save of the night goes to Manny Fernandez, who stops a long shot from the point on a Dallas power play. The rebound bounces out to Jason Arnott, who slaps a backhand to the glove side, but Fernandez slides over to cover up the opening and holds on for the faceoff.
13:17 - Just like they draw it up! Brian Rolston tries to hit Randy Robitaille skating through the neutral zone with a home run pass. The pass doesn't come close and it would be considered icing, but the puck takes a huge bounce off the backboard and avoids a wicked swipe from Dallas goaltender Johan Hedberg. Robitaille swoops in and buries his 10th of the year. Nick Schultz joins Rolston in the assist column.
12:08 - Referee Gord Dwyer now knows what it's like for opposing players asked to block a Kurtis Foster slap shot. The Wild defenseman uncorks a blast that is tipped in front and rockets into the corner where it catches Dwayer in the ankle. To his credit, Dwyer stays on his feet and skates right back into play.
10:15 - Wes Walz intercepts a Stephane Robidas breakout pass at the Dallas blueline and he has some space to work with. He lets loose with a wicked wrist shot that just misses wide on Hedberg's stick side.
8:10 - Few things are as entertaining as watching Kurtis "Bananaz" Foster and Brian Rolston take turns with bombs from the point on a Wild power play. Neither is able to put one past Hedberg, but it's still good fun.
0:00 - The first period ends with the Wild leading in goals (1-0) AND shots (8-6), so we can feel doubly good about ourselves during the first intermission.
18:53 - Dallas gets the game tied up as Jere Lehtinen remains the only Star to score against the Wild this season. Lehtinen bats at a weak shot from the point off the stick of Sergei Zubov, and he gets just enough of the puck to change its direction as it finds its way between the pads of Manny Fernandez.
16:35 - Heads up! While clearing the zone during a penalty kill, Willie Mitchell fires the puck directly into the Wild bench, buzzing the combover of Wild head coach Jacques Lemaire.
15:22 - Manny Fernandez makes a spectacular glove save on Mike Modano, who rips a wrist shot labeled for the upper corner before the sliding goaltender gets over to make the save.
14:06 - The crowd gives a thunderous cheer for Brian Rolston and Todd White, who do a superb job of killing a Dallas penalty by pinning the puck in the Stars zone for nearly 30 seconds.
8:36 - The Wild got their bounce in the first period, the Stars get theirs here in the second. Dallas' Phillipe Boucher takes a slap shot from the point on a Dallas power play. The shot misses wide, but it bounces hard off the backboards, into the crease, off the back of Manny Fernandez, and into the net for a 2-1 Stars lead.
0:58 - The Wild gets the first solid scoring chance for either team in quite some time. On the power play, Foster sends a high shot from the point through traffic that Hedberg never sees until it hits him square in the melon.
13:18 - Dallas is showing why it is one of the NHL's stingiest teams, as we've gone quite some time without a scoring opportunity for either team.
12:14 - Until now, as Randy Robitaille sends a quick no-look backhand pass from behind the net to Brian Rolston all alone in front. Rolston's quick shot is turned away by a pretty skate save by Johan Hedberg.
9:59 - Marian Gaborik nearly makes a highlight reel move on Sergei Zubov while killing a penalty. As he enters the Dallas zone, he shuffles the puck to one side of the defender, then dances around the other side, but the puck got away a little too far, and Hedberg covers up. The bright side is that Gaborik gives Hedberg a monster snow shower as he stops right in front of the netminder.
7:59 - If the Wild comes back to win this one, Manny Fernandez is going to get some major praise from his mates n the dressing room. He makes two remarkable saves on Niko Kapanen, who fires one shot from the slot, gets the rebound and sends another one in toward the goal, but Fernandez lunges over on his side and somehow keeps the puck out with his stretched glove hand.
7:06 - It's getting late, and the Wild go on the power play. It's time for Mr. Third Period, Todd White to work his late-game magic.
5:19 - Robitaille finds Gaborik cutting in through the back door with a perfect feed from behind the net. Gaborik can't get good wood on the shot and he just misses wide.
1:31 - With a faceoff in the Dallas end, the entire crowd is up and raising the decibel level to a high for the night.
0:00 - The Wild can't get a clean shot off while controlling the puck for the final minute, and Dallas escapes the Xcel Energy Center with a 2-1 win.
Minnesota Wild (20-18-4, 9th in Western Conference; 5th in Northwest Division) vs.
Dallas Stars (27-12-2, 2nd in Western Conference; T-1st in Pacific Division)
***Wild vs. Stars will be broadcast at 7:00 PM on FOX Sports Net North***
The Minnesota Wild put forth a dominating effort in a 4-1 home victory on Saturday night against the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. The fact that Minnesota is playing its best hockey of the season over the last three weeks certainly was a factor. The fact that Anaheim had played the Dallas Stars the night before and didn’t arrive in the Twin Cities until 3:00 AM the morning of the Saturday game was probably another.
The Ducks were listless over the final two periods on Saturday, mustering just 11 shots on the game.
The Wild has a bunch of class guys in its locker room, but few will be shedding any tears for the Ducks, or the Dallas Stars, who are faced with a similar challenge tonight. The Stars played in Detroit last night, but unlike the Ducks, the Stars emerged victorious in their game, winning 6-3.
Minnesota won’t be able to count on preying upon another fatigued team tonight. The Stars will be looking to avenge a 2-1 loss in the only previous meeting between the two clubs this year.
Todd White and Marian Gaborik scored third period goals to rally the team for a huge victory that spurred the team on to win six of its next nine games. Wild goaltender Manny Fernandez was superb in the win, stopping 30 of 31 shots in the game. It was the first win of his current six-game winning streak.
Fernandez will make his 15th career start tonight against Dallas, the team he made his professional debut with in 1995. He has started the last 12 Wild games against Dallas, and he owns an 8-6 lifetime record against the Stars.
Pierre-Marc Bouchard will miss his second consecutive game tonight with neck soreness. Bouchard did not practice on Sunday, but he’ll have four days to rest it before the Wild’s next game against Calgary on Saturday. He is expected to be ready to go for the Flames.
Todd White. White continues to score the big goals when needed, and he continues to thrive in his new surroundings in the Xcel Energy Center. White has scored nine of his 12 goals this season in the third period, and 10 of the 12 at home. He has scored in seven of the last 11 games, putting him third on the team in goals.
Marty Turco. Anyone who saw Marty Turco’s performance against the Wild on December 19, would be flabbergasted to find out the Turco has been struggling as of late. Turco was brilliant in the 2-1 loss to Minnesota, making 20 saves, most of them of the startling variety. But Turco was yanked during last night’s win over Detroit, just as he was the game before against the Ducks. Turco won’t get pulled tonight. Johan Hedberg will be making the start in goal for Dallas.
Randy Robitaille (Brian Rolston, Nick Schultz)
Jere Lehtinen (Sergei Zubov, Jussi Jokinen)
Philippe Boucher (power play) (Sergei Zubov, Mike Modano)
Kurtis Foster hooking
Martin Skoula tripping
Steve Ott holding
Marian Gaborik holding
- Bench too many men served by K Wanvig
Alex Henry hooking
Wes Walz throwing stick
Bill Guerin double minor interference, unsportsmanlike cond