Dallas halts the Wild’s winning streak at 4 games despite valiant effort by the Wild

Havlat tries to solve Lehtonen

As the NFL Playoffs begin, for the fans of Minnesota they find themselves out in the cold and in the land of uncertainty.  Brett Favre is effectively finished and I think even Minnesota fans would be shocked if he returned for another season with the Vikings let alone anyone else in the NFL.  Now for the uncertainty, first is at quarterback where many doubt Tavaris Jackson, the man once thought to be the future starting QB for the Vikings and he is a free agent this upcoming offseason.  So who will be the Vikings quarterback?  Joe Webb, the fantastic athlete from the University of Alabama-Birmingham who dazzled with his running ability and surprised many with his throwing skill.  However, is he really the kind of quarterback that new head coach Leslie Frazier wants to start next season with or should the Vikings be looking at drafting a quarterback in the 1st round?  However the biggest uncertainty surrounds whether the Vikings will be playing after next season and I’m not talking about their road schedule.  The Vikings have just one more year on their lease at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, and for over a decade have been pining for a new stadium where they have insisted is necessary in order to make money.  State and County lawmakers have hemmed and hawed and still no resolution is in sight.  In the meantime the Metropolitan Sports Commission is going ahead with the plan to fix the Metrodome’s deflated roof, but could next year be the last year for the Vikings in Minnesota.  The NFL has stated several times it wants a team in Los Angeles, and while I’ve heard Vikings fans say “it will never happen” all I’d ask them to take a look at is the Wild’s opponent today, the Dallas Stars. 

Back in the early 1990’s many were indignant about the possibility of the Minnesota North Stars leaving but in 1993 it happened.  Then North Stars owner Norm Green became an instant pariah and hasn’t returned to the State of Hockey since.  Any professional sports team can move and while I am not saying that fans must always lobby for wealthy owners to get whatever they want, they should at least understand that these people are in business to make money and they’ll do whatever they can to keep making money even if it means ripping out the hearts of long-time fans in the process.  Will Zygi Wilf do that to Minnesota fans, I doubt its something he wants to do but if it protects his investment I think he’ll do whatever it takes even if it means becoming the Los Angeles Vikings.  If NHL hockey can be ripped from us, football certainly can as well.  The Wild are not in any kind of danger of that taking place but they too are battling a level of uncertainty as they are trying to ride a wave of success that it hasn’t had all season that has gotten it near the precipice of the playoff picture in the Western Conference.  Will the Wild take another step forward or a step back after a great road trip?

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The Wild had a good shift from its energy line to start the game as Eric Nystrom carried the puck down low where he left it for John Madden who held onto the puck behind the Dallas goal for a few moments before trying to dish it into the slot where Nystrom fanned on the shot.  The Stars were trying to counter attack but Minnesota was skating well and staying with Dallas’ speedy forwards early on.  Dallas would race up the ice where they went on a 4-on-2 and it was Brad Richards threading a cross-ice pass to a crashing Trevor Daley for an easy tap in goal, giving the Stars a 1-0 lead.  The Wild did not help their cause by taking an early penalty as On the penalty kill Minnesota would have an early scoring chance as Richards stumbled as he was handling the puck near the point and Nystrom took off for the Dallas end and he’d try to beat Andrew Raycroft with a backhander but he’d hold on for the save on the shorthanded bid.  The Stars were still threatening as Richards stepped around a Wild defenseman for a chance that was directed away by the paddle of Jose Theodore.  Minnesota would get the big penalty kill, limiting Dallas to just 2 shots on goal with the man advantage.  The Stars were skating very well making it tough for the Wild to have time or space on the ice, as they were forced to settle for an unscreened shot from the high slot by Matt Cullen.  Dallas was really flying, as they raced in and Steve Ott and Adam Burish had opportunities that forced two quick saves by Theodore.  Moments later the Stars would take a point shot from Niklas Grossman and Adam Burish would charge the crease charging through Theodore to push the puck in the net that was immediately waived off.  Burish would earn a goaltender interference penalty.  The Wild would go on the power play and the Wild moved the puck quickly from the wall back out to the point where Pierre-Marc Bouchard stepped into a shot that hit the right post and out.  Dallas was very aggressive on the penalty kill, not giving Wild an easy route to get set up on the power play and Minnesota was not able to create much offensive pressure on the man advantage.  The Stars were also asserting themselves physically as Krys Barch was throwing his body around, but he’d be countered by a few hard hits by the Wild’s Brad Staubitz.  Minnesota tried to counter attack against the aggressive approach of the Stars and they nearly cashed in as a quick shot by Cullen was nearly created a rebound that was almost tapped in by Patrick O’Sullivan.  The Wild’s 2nd line would finally create some sustained offensive pressure that got the crowd cheering in appreciation as they made some nice little passes before Brent Burns stepped up and carried the puck down behind the Stars goal before turning and zipping a pass to Bouchard on the back door and his one timer struck the right post again.  Minnesota was starting to adjust to the Stars speed and they were beginning to create more offensive chances as a long range wrist shot by O’Sullivan created a rebound that Cal Clutterbuck just failed to pounce on.  Dallas was still threatening, as Trevor Daley was pinching with great frequency and he gunned a shot from the slot that was steered away by Theodore.  Newest member of the Dallas Stars, Jamie Langenbrunner would rip a shot from the high slot that was knocked down by Theodore and the Wild would try to carry it out of harm’s way.  The Stars would strike with just 48 seconds left as the game opened up a bit, and Jamie Benn took flight, stepping right around Cam Barker and beating Theodore top shelf to give Dallas a 2-0 lead.  Minnesota would challenge in the closing seconds as Martin Havlat took a chance and put a wrist shot on goal that wasn’t contained as he followed up for the loose puck it would end up on the stick of Nystrom who tried to carry it out front but he’d be tied up before he could pull the trigger on a shot and Havlat tried to move in for a rebound but his shot went to the side of the goal and the Wild would trail by two going into the 2nd period. 

The Wild were trying to get something positive going at the start of the 2nd period as Cal Clutterbuck tracked down a puck deep into the Stars zone before flinging a shot from beneath the goal line towards Raycroft but he was smart to hold the post and make the save.  Minnesota was moving well, and chipping the puck deep and then cycling but while it was good for time of possession it wasn’t leading to many shots on goal.  The Stars were going to try to go on the attack themselves and their superior speed allowed them to find a little space and Jamie Benn had an open lane through the slot where he steamed a wrist shot that was held onto by Theodore.  Minnesota was starting to ramp up its physical game as Nystrom rocked Grossman with a huge hit that earned a few cheers from the hometown crowd.  The Wild were trying to create some speed through the neutral zone and Bouchard worked a give and go with Havlat as the Czech forward dished it back to Bouchard who zoomed around from behind the Dallas goal before feeding a pass back Marco Scandella that did not have a lot of velocity on it.  The puck just wasn’t settling for the Wild when they seemed to find time and space as the team continued to work in the Stars’ zone, but Dallas was quick to counter with offensive chances of their own.  Minnesota finally got a little space on an area pass to Clutterbuck who dropped it back to O’Sullivan who ripped a shot into the crest of Raycroft for an easy save as O’Sullivan banged his elbow against the glass in frustration.  The Wild were starting to draw some turnovers and Mikko Koivu managed to steal a puck in the Stars’ zone where he tried to set up Chuck Kobasew but he was tied up before he could pull the trigger but Minnesota would draw a tripping penalty on Daley.  The Stars penalty kill played very well positionally not giving Minnesota much to look at and when they tried to move near the goal and work a quick bang-bang play Dallas would intercept and clear the zone.  Minnesota was far too static on the power play as the Stars were content to stay in a tight box near their crease not giving the Wild anything up the middle of the ice.  Dallas would try to answer back with some pressure of its own and Richards would steal a puck in the Wild zone where he’d slide it over to Loui Eriksson who fired a shot that was stopped by Theodore.  Minnesota would go on the penalty kill as Bouchard was tagged with a high sticking call.  The Stars moved the puck very efficiently from out high to down to the half wall where they set up a one-timer for Jamie Langenbrunner that missed high over the goal when he had Theodore sprawling.  Minnesota’s penalty kill could best be described as exhausted and scrambling and they would take another penalty after killing off Bouchard’s infraction.  Clayton Stoner would go to the box for hooking and Minnesota would go shorthanded once again.  The Stars were not moving the puck as efficiently as they had on the previous power play as Minnesota was providing a little more pressure on the puck carrier.  Dallas would try to crowd the crease as James Neal was shut down by Theodore as he skated into the blue paint.  Minnesota would get the big penalty kill and the Wild would try to re-group.  The Stars nearly put the dagger into the game as Langenbrunner nearly had a chance to dangle it around a sprawling Theodore but the Wild’s defense came to his rescue and Greg Zanon was able to get the puck out of the zone.  The Wild were trying to go on the attack but when players like Martin Havlat would take off they’d be closely shadowed by the Stars and they’d hold onto their 2-goal lead going into the 3rd period. 

The Stars still had that extra step in their skates that the Wild just could not match to start the 3rd period as Daley again joined the rush and he fired a snap shot that was steered aside by Theodore.  Minnesota’s 2nd line tried to get their feet going and Pierre-Marc Bouchard cycled the puck to Kyle Brodziak who passed it back out to Nick Schultz who dished it over to Burns who gunned a shot on goal that was deflected into the netting by Brodziak.  Clutterbuck was flying all over the ice trying to get things going with a few hits as he gave a little punishment to Jeff Woywitka and Marc Fistric.  The Wild were working hard, the Stars were just a little faster.  Minnesota was passing the puck well, with nice crisp passes even setting up some awesome chances as Havlat had a quick redirect in the slot that was turned away by Raycroft.  Clutterbuck would again deliver a thundering hit to Stephan Robidas that had him getting up slowly and the crowd’s anxiety was building as Minnesota was ramping up the intensity.  The Stars tried to go on the attack and Theodore would deliver an incredible save from his own goal as he lifted up his glove to stop Langenbrunner.  The crowd would get on its feet to appreciate the hard work of the 2nd line as they battled ferociously along the boards setting up Marco Scandella who found a little space and he rifled a shot from the point that was kicked aside by Raycroft.  The Stars would keep counter punching and James Neal would turn and fire a shot that trickled underneath the arm of Theodore an the puck would roll over the goal line before he could stop it and suddenly they were down 3-0.  Dallas was doing a superb job of denying shooting lanes and getting sticks on Wild shots forcing them wide of the goal time after time.  Minnesota kept taking their chances as a long range shot from the point for Burns and Clutterbuck chipped a rebound on goal that was just directed aside by Raycroft.  Dallas would put the nail in the coffin after a small battle won along the boards in the Wild zone where Jamie Benn zipped a laser of a wrister by Theodore to give Dallas a 4-0 lead.  The Wild would try for the pride goal to break the shut out, but the story remained the same even as they’d get a shot through that created a rebound they were unable to get sticks on those loose pucks.   Minnesota was really turning the Dallas zone into a shooting gallery, peppering Raycroft with all kinds of shots, mostly from the perimeter as the final seconds evaporated from the clock as they fell 4-0. 

Theodore made 24 saves in the loss.  You couldn’t really blame Theodore for the outcome of the game.  Without question Theodore would want those last two goals back, but he kept Minnesota in the game long enough to have had a chance.  Defensively the Wild really did not play that bad.  The Stars took full advantage of their chances and played far more of a finesse game than did any of the other teams in their 4 previous games.  On the bright side, the Wild were again perfect on the penalty kill and while it may not have been pretty they forced the Stars to go 0-for-3. 

Offensively the Stars did a terrific job at disrupting 2nd chance opportunities all game long.  Minnesota very rarely had a clean look to shoot the puck and thus Dallas was able to put sticks on Wild shots and preventing multiple chances from ever even reaching Raycroft.  Minnesota struggled against the more aggressive penalty kill, but they adjusted and at times were victims of their own patience.  With a team playing so aggressive the Wild had to take one timers and if Bouchard gets either one or both of his two post-shots in the 1st period this game could’ve turned out very differently. 

You certainly cannot criticize the effort the Wild put forth in this game.  From start to finish, the Wild battled all game long.  They hit, they shot, they persisted and you have to admire the effort they had considering coming off a great road trip.  Its too bad this effort wasn’t rewarded, but give the Stars credit they kept the pace of the game up-tempo and not allowing Minnesota to slow it down and playing to its strengths.  One player who personified this tireless effort was Cal Clutterbuck who registered 9 hits on the evening.  The Wild have another tough one on Tuesday when they go to Nashville but the effort gives fans a lot to be happy about. 

Wild Notes:

~ The Wild roster this afternoon is as follows:  Mikko Koivu, Andrew Brunette, Chuck Kobasew, John Madden, Kyle Brodziak, Brad Staubitz, Patrick O’Sullivan, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Cal Clutterbuck, Martin Havlat, Marco Scandella, Clayton Stoner, Nick Schultz, Greg Zanon, Cam Barker and Brent Burns.  Anton Khudobin backed up Jose Theodore.  Jared Spurgeon was the lone healthy scratch.  Antti Miettinen is out of the lineup with the flu, while Marek Zidlicky is struggling with an upper body injury.  Niklas Backstrom will be going to Vail, Colorado to see a hip specialist on what is believed to be a groin injury and Guillaume Latendresse is still rehabbing from November surgery. 

~ The 3 Stars of the Game as selected by Let’s Play Hockey were: 1st Star Trevor Daley, 2nd Star Jamie Benn, 3rd Star Cal Clutterbuck

~ Attendance this afternoon was 18,082 at Xcel Energy Center.

~ The Houston Aeros avenged a 4-0 loss the previous night against in-state rival San Antonio Rampage as they had a solid effort beating the Rampage 3-1 this afternoon.  The Rampage got off to a 1-0 lead on a goal from Ryan Hollweg, but the Aeros answered quickly as Jed Ortmeyer battled along the wall to push it back out to the point where Kris Friedheim blasted a shot on by Al Montoya to tie the game at 1-1.  After a scoreless 2nd period where both teams traded a few power plays that amounted to nothing the Aeros would get the go ahead goal on a pretty play by Chad Rau who fired a shot that was knocked down by Montoya and Jean-Michel Daoust was there to bury the rebound.  Colton Gillies would seal the victory with an empty netter as the Aeros take away a 3-1 victory.  Ortmeyer continues to be productive for Houston, tallying 2 assists and Matthew Hackett had another terrific start making 28 saves in the victory. 

WCHA Men’s Hockey Rundown:

Robert Morris vs. North Dakota (North Dakota sweeps series 2-0) – Game 1 of the series was an extremely one sided affair as the Colonials looked totally overwhelmed against the Fighting Sioux in their first ever meeting between the two teams.  The superior speed, skill and size of the Sioux made Robert Morris play with hesitation and that spelled disaster as they were crushed 8-0 in front of a packed crowd at Ralph Englestadt Arena in Grand Forks.  New York Islanders’ 1st rounder Brock Nelson scored twice, while the Sioux’s top scorer Matt Frattin fired home his 19th goal of the season as North Dakota dominated game 1.  Saturday’s match up was much different with the Fighting Sioux playing a bit more relaxed and Robert Morris playing more responsible defensively.  Robert Morris was also standing up for themselves and not allowing the Fighting Sioux to push them around as both teams shared a number of coincidental roughing minors throughout the game.  The game stayed knotted at 0-0 until just beyond 4 minutes left in the 3rd period when Frattin scored.  The Colonials would pull Eric Levine for an extra attacker and Hastings, Minnesota native Danny Kristo would tally the empty net goal, but Robert Morris wasn’t about to be shutout twice.   They poured it on in the final minute where they finally registered a goal when Nathan Longpre found the twine behind Aaron Dell as the Colonials fell 2-1. 

American International vs. Minnesota State (Minnesota State sweeps series 2-0) – In game 1, the Mavericks stormed out of the gate by putting tons of pressure on American International and its goaltender Ben Meisner.  The Mavericks would score on the power play, when Rylan Galiardi took a pass from Kurt Davis and he ripped a one-timer by Meisner.  Little did anyone know that would be the only goal of the game as the Mavericks continued to dominate the play.  Maverick’s goaltender Phil Cook was pretty bored forced to make just 17 saves all game long, while Meisner was busy stopping 50 out of the 51 he faced as Minnesota State prevailed 1-0.  In game 2, the game had a more normal pace as American International was able to better handle the Maverick’s speed, but it was Minnesota State jumping out to a 2-0 lead on goals from Cloquet’s Justin Jokinen and Kurt Davis.  American International would strike back as Blake Peake beat Austin Lee on a long range shot.  Maverick’s 4th liner John McInnis would score his first goal of the season to give Minnesota State a 3-1 lead going into the 2nd period.  The Yellow Jackets would cut the Maverick’s lead back to one, when Jeff Ceccacci‘s point shot found its way behind Lee to put the game within American International’s reach at 3-2 going into the 3rd.  The comeback bid would come up short as the Mavericks added two more goals from Chase Grant and St. Paul Johnson’s Michael Dorr to give Minnesota State a 5-2 victoy and a series sweep. 

Canisius vs. Wisconsin (Wisconsin sweeps series 2-0) – In the first game, the Badgers and Griffins had a quiet start as both teams were playing good disciplined hockey.  Yet it was only a matter of time before the Badgers’ superior talent began to make a difference and Wisconsin would get on the scoreboard when its talented blueliner Justin Schultz cannonaded a shot from the point that beat Tony Capobianco to get the Kohl Center crowd on its feet.  The Badgers would add two more goals in the 3rd, as Nashville prospect Craig Smith and Jordy Murray lit the lamp to seal a 3-0 victory.  Scott Gudmanson earned the shutout after making just 18 saves.  The second game would be a barn burner.  It would start out quietly enough with a scoreless first period but then erupt into a thriller.  The Badgers would jump out to a 3-0 lead early in the 2nd period on goals from Craig Johnson, Minnetonka’s Jake Gardiner, and Craig Smith.  The Griffins would strike back, as Taylor Law and Scott Jenks would cut Wisconsin’s lead to one by the end of the 2nd period.  Early in the 3rd period, Ryan Bohrer tied up the game at 3-3.  The Badgers would strike back with a goal of their own when Keegan Meuer scored his first goal of the season but the Griffins responded with two goals of its own from Preston Shupe and Law to take the lead for the first time 5-4.  With the Badgers trailing for the first time all game and the anxiety level so thick you could cut it with a knife Wisconsin began to pour it on and Dan Morrison quickly found himself under siege.  Smith would tie the game at 5-5 with just under 4 minutes left in the game sending it to overtime.  A costly interference penalty on Canisius’ Phil Rauch gave the Badgers the window of opportunity they were looking for when Schultz blasted home the game winner to earn the series sweep. 

Bemidji State vs. Alabama-Huntsville (Series split at 1-1) – Just last year, the University of Alabama-Huntsville and Bemidji State were rivals in the defunct Men’s side of College Hockey America Conference.  In the first game it was Bemidji State welcoming its former conference mate harshly as the Beavers responded to an early Chargers 1-0 lead with three unanswered goals of their own; two of which from Wild prospect camp tryout Matt Read as they cruised to a 3-1 victory.  In the 2nd game, the Chargers would again jump out to an early lead on goals from Matt Baxter and Mac Roy.  The Beavers would try to answer back with a goal from Emil Billberg, but the Chargers lit the lamp two more times on goals from Baxter and Keenan Desmet to take a commanding 4-1 lead.  Bemidji State attempted to comeback with a goal from Aaron McLeod and a shorthanded tally from Read but couldn’t get the equalizer by the Chargers’ Clarke Saunders and the series would be split. 

Michigan Tech vs. St. Cloud State (St. Cloud State sweeps series 2-0) – In the lone WCHA match up of the weekend, Michigan Tech and host St. Cloud State battled it out at the National Sport Center in St. Cloud.  St. Cloud State would find the back of the net first on a goal from Jared Festler, and then added two more goals from Pittsburgh Penguins’ prospect Ben Hanowski and Cam Reid.  The game would get very chippy after Reid’s goal as both teams exchanged a pair of roughing minors late in the 2nd period.  St. Cloud was able to prevail, 3-0.  In the second game, Michigan Tech would jump out to a 1-0 lead on a goal by Deron Cousens, but it was all St. Cloud State after that as they blitzed Michigan Tech with 5 goals to cruise to a 5-1 rout and a series sweep. 

U.S Under-18 National Development Program 0, Minnesota 9 – The Golden Gophers returned from the holidays with an exhibition game against the U.S. Under-18 National Development program Friday night at Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis.  The Golden Gophers dominated the youthful American squad, scoring 3 goals in the first from Mike Hoeffel, Tom Serratore and Joe Miller.  Minnesota continued to rack up the goals with four more in the second from Jay Bariball, Max Gardiner, Nick Bjugstad, and Jacob Cepis.  The U.S. Under-18 squad would give up 2 more in the 3rd period from Cepis and Hoeffel as they were crushed 9-0.  Bjugstad, the Florida Panthers’ prospect had a nice return from the World Junior Championships as he scored a goal and 3 assists. 

U.S. Under-18 National Development Program 1, University of Minnesota-Duluth 4 – The next night, the U.S. Under-18 team traveled to Duluth to battle UMD and the result was only mildly better than it was against the Gophers.  The Bulldogs jumped out to a 2-0 lead on goals from White Bear Lake’s David Grun and former Duluth Marshall Hilltopper Jack Connolly.  Team USA finally got on the score board when Rocco Grimaldi ripped a wrist shot by Kenny Reiter.  The Bulldogs would score two more times as Keegan Flaherty and Jake Hendrickson scored in the 3rd period for UMD to cruise to a 4-1 victory. 

About Derek Felska

I am a lifelong hockey fan from Minnesota who loves and appreciates the game at all levels. I have been blogging about the Minnesota Wild since 2005. I cover just about every aspect of the organization from the team itself, its coaches, its management, its broadcast as well as its AHL affiliate the Iowa Wild and the club's pool of prospects. In addition to the NHL I occasionally take the time to cover college and high school hockey as well. We are the State of Hockey and I want to make this blog informative and objective from the eyes of a fan. I am a fan of the Minnesota Wild, but I am no homer. I hope what you read reflects this approach!

Better effort, similar result as Wild lose 5th straight in 4-3 overtime road loss to Dallas

There is a saying that “life is hard.”  It may be a saying that is used far too loosely in our society as people say that when they can’t get cellular phone reception while others use that describe rather simply a loved-one’s struggle with a terminal disease.  Obviously, the latter is far more worthy of that phrase and if you’ve ever lost anyone to any sort of terminal disease like cancer you have an idea of just how hard life can be.  Some people might use such a phrase to talk about the difficulties someone faces if they’re unemployed and trying to raise a family.  No doubt its tough to tell your kids “sorry I can’t” during the holiday season.  For others, when they say life is hard they may be trying to comfort someone that is going through a break up in a relationship.  Depending on how deep the feelings are for that person, or the extenuated circumstances of that break up it can be very difficult to deal with emotionally.  In fact, it may be extremely difficult to move on and the feelings of loss and pain can be quite stressful.  Speaking of relationships, I wonder as a whole where the Wild’s relationship is with its fans.  It certainly isn’t on real good terms at this point.  Not quite to the point where most of them (the fans) are seeing other people (teams) but certainly they’re unhappy with what they’ve been receiving in this relationship at this point in the 2010-11 season. 

Would it be described as “being short with one another”, “disatisfied”, “feeling unappreciated” perhaps?  No I am not going to recommend Cialis or Viagra for the Wild (besides the Wild can’t afford it), but they need to have some sort of shakeup if things don’t improve soon.  No matter what, losing 5 of their last 6 and currently mired in a 4-game losing streak isn’t helping the relationship any.  If the Wild were a significant other they may be sleeping on the couch at this point.  So will Minnesota bring flowers (wins) for the fans and start the healing process or will they stay in the relationship doghouse against Dallas, who has won their last 5 games. 

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Minnesota was moving well to start the 1st period in a vacuous American Airlines Arena, but the Wild would also demonstrate a lack of discipline early as Nick Schultz was tagged with an early tripping penalty.  The Wild’s penalty kill was challenging well, forcing the Stars to work the perimeter and settle for long range shots.  Dallas would adjust trying to use wrist shots to create rebounds and redirection opportunities but their few attempts luckily failed to connect.  Just as the power play expired, Steve Ott would win a battle for a puck along the boards and then dish it back to Karlis Skrastins who fired a quick shot that surprised Jose Theodore to give Dallas a 1-0 lead.  The Stars were making things difficult for the Wild as their defense was able to pick up the loose puck and then quickly lifting the puck to not only clear the zone but place it deep into Minnesota zone and then forcing the play through the neutral zone which the State of Hockey struggled to handle.  Minnesota was finally able to register a shot on a wrister by John Madden that was held onto with ease by Dallas’ Kari Lehtonen.  The Stars were also playing well positionally to start the game as they were blocking shots and denying shooting lanes.  The Stars had another great scoring chance after some great work down low by the Stars’ Brad Richards who delivered a wicked pass from between the legs to a crashing Matt Niskanen that was stopped by a sprawling save by Theodore.  Minnesota was showing a little toughness and some frustration when Martin Havlat got into a skirmish with Steve Ott who looked as though he wanted to punch the Wild’s leading scorer in the face after getting a few little jabs to the face.  Both players would head to the sin bin with coincidental roughing minors.  With the ice a little more open at 4-on-4 the game would have a little more back and forth type of play as Dallas and Minnesota began to trade rushes with one another with neither team coming all that close to scoring; with the possible exception of a cannon from the point by the Stars’ Phillip Larsen that did not miss by much.  The Wild would earn its 1st power play of the game when Matt Niskanen held up Cal Clutterbuck.  On the power play, the Wild won the faceoff and put some good pressure on the Stars early as Matt Cullen spun and gained some time and space before firing a shot on goal that was absorbed by Lehtonen.  The Wild continued to attack and a rocket from the point by Zidlicky struck the left post, but Minnesota would gather up the loose biscuit setting up another scoring chance near the crease as Andrew Brunette was lurking near the top of the blue paint.  Minnesota would come up empty on the man advantage and adding insult to injury the Wild would go on the penalty kill after Antti Miettinen‘s lazy hooking penalty.  On the Stars power play, Brad Richards flung a backhander on goal that Theodore stopped and Brendan Morrow backhanded the rebound just wide of the mark.  The Wild would managed to kill off the penalty with some well timed physicality as Greg Zanon stepped in to deliver a few nice hits to break up the play.  Minnesota started to show a bit more grit, as Kyle Brodziak skated in and he wound up and unloaded a slapper that Lehtonen struggled to knock down and it was Eric Nystrom that tried to dive in to shovel home the rebound he was hauled down by Brandon Segal for an obvious interference penalty.  Minnesota had difficulty getting established in the Stars’ zone, as it took nearly a minute before they were finally able to get much of anything going offensively.  Minnesota was able to attempt a few wrist shots but nothing real threatening as they trailed 1-0 going into the 2nd period. 

In the 2nd period, the Wild had an excellent scoring chance shorthanded as Cal Clutterbuck raced in on the break away but he was stonewalled by a nice save by Lehtonen.  The Stars would counter attack and it was Steve Ott moving in all alone himself as he tried to wrist a shot by Theodore who held on as Ott collided into him for no call.  Moments later the Stars had another fantastic chance when Eriksson, Ott made a nice play but Ott dished it back to a crashing James Neal who drove a shot wide.  After the Wild killed off the power play, Minnesota’s 2nd line had a terrific shift controlling the puck and Martin Havlat set up Brent Burns for a few one-timers that missed high and wide.  Matt Cullen would race into the Dallas zone where he fired a hard backhand shot that was directed to the corner by Lehtonen and he followed up his shot by gathering the puck and feathering a pass towards the crease that was pounced upon by Chuck Kobasew that was denied by the Stars goalie.  The Wild’s 4th line would create some offense as Eric Nystrom would carry it into the Dallas zone where he dropped a pass back to John Madden who hammered a slapper on goal and it was Brad Staubitz charging to the crease but he couldn’t get a stick on the loose puck.  The Wild continued to attack, as Kyle Brodziak would lower his shoulder and take the puck to the net and Lehtonen would be ran over by Larsen and Minnesota would go on the power play as Karlis Skrastins was tagged with a delay of game penalty.  The power play would be short lived, as Martin Havlat was shoved into Lehtonen by Steve Ott but the officials were not interested in hearing Havlat out and the man advantage came to an end.  The game would open up a bit more with both teams at 4-on-4 and James Neal would use his speed to get around Zanon and he nearly managed to slide a shot through 5-hole and the puck would sit in the crease by itself for a moment before Zanon was able to sweep it out of danger.  A few minutes later, Mikko Koivu would take an undisciplined high sticking penalty when he lifted his stick into the face of Brian Sutherby for an easy call.  Minnesota again would have a quick shorthanded chance to start the penalty kill as Kyle Brodziak raced into the Dallas zone where he fired a wrister that was gloved out of the air nicely by Lehtonen.  The Wild’s penalty kill was strong and supporting its goaltender well and was able to clear the zone.  However the Stars were persistent and a little drop pass by Neal to Ott who fired a shot high glove side and over the shoulder of Theodore to give Dallas a 2-0 lead.  The Wild tried to turn the tables on the Stars as they begin to get more physical as Brad Staubitz was throwing big hits all over the ice.  Minnesota would score late in the period when Mikko Koivu made an strong power move towards the crease where he tried to jam it through Lehtonen who dropped to try to cover the puck and the biscuit would pop up and bounce off the shaft of one of the flailing sticks and into the back of the net for a goal.  The goal was reviewed and it was Antti Miettinen who was given credit for the tally and Minnesota had cut the lead to one, 2-1 going into the 3rd period. 

Minnesota had good hustle to start the 3rd period as the Wild would move the puck down low, where Pierre-Marc Bouchard won a battle for the biscuit along the boards and this allowed Havlat to try a wrap around that skittered through the Dallas crease.  The Wild followed up that solid first shift of the period with some more hard work as Cal Clutterbuck made a nice hit on Phillip Larsen, and then got a pass from Cullen and he fired a shot on goal that was stopped by Lehtonen but he gave up a rebound and Chuck Kobasew was there to tap it in to tie the game at 2-2.  The Stars would try to respond, with some great offensive pressure of their own as James Neal stole a weak pass in the Minnesota zone and he lifted a wrist shot just up and over the Wild goal.  Minnesota scrambled to finally clear the zone.  Both teams were really moving well, as the Wild tried to ramp up their game physically.  Perhaps a little too much emphasis on being physical and the Wild would get caught chasing a bit in its own zone and Trevor Daley threaded a pass to Adam Burish who was parked near the crease and he beat Theodore cleanly with a backhand shot to allow the Stars to re-take the lead 3-2.  Dallas started to dominate the play with some great forechecking that kept Minnesota bottled up in its own zone.  The swarming Stars were looking to pad their lead and they were coming closer and closer to doing so as Steve Ott fired a shot that struck Theodore in the mask and he fell to the ice as he had Burish looking for a loose puck but it would be swept away by the Wild’s defense.  Dallas’ quality scoring chances kept piling up as Jamie Benn set up Brendan Morrow on a pretty cross-ice pass but his quick one timed shot was kicked aside by Theodore.  The ice was definitely tilted in favor of Dallas, but Minnesota would try to alleviate that pressure by flipping it into the Stars’ zone and it worked a little as the Wild’s Antti Miettinen managed to work a puck to Koivu who fired a wrist shot that was steered wide by Lehtonen.  The Stars were still taking every chance they could to try to drive to the Wild crease as Loui Eriksson made a strong move towards Theodore who stymied his attempt poke checking the shot to the corner.  Minnesota then had perhaps its best shift of the game in terms of sustained effort as the top line of Brunette, Koivu and Miettinen cycled well down low in the Dallas zone, creating multiple shooting opportunities but unfortunately not many of those shots were on goal to force Lehtonen to at least to have to make a save.  Minnesota was pinching its defense as Brent Burns had moved in down low to keep the cycle going, and eventually the pressure would end with a poitn shot by Zanon whose shot was deflected up into the netting above the glass drawing a whistle.  The Wild were really pouring it on, looking as though if they were on the power play working the points until Zidlicky uncorked a slapper that was blocked and the puck was picked up by Havlat who got a weak shot towards the crease which was punched out by a reaching Lehtonen and the puck went back to Havlat who fired it by Lehtonen to tie the game 3-3.  Minnesota and Dallas would play a bit more conservatively through the closing few minutes and the game would go to overtime. 

Minnesota would start overtime with Kyle Brodziak, Martin Havlat, Brent Burns and Nick Schultz and it was Havlat tried to saucer a pass to Burns who was looking to help out offensively but it was intercepted.  The Stars would counter as James Neal attempted to feed a shot towards the top of the crease but it failed to connect and it would clear the zone.  Steadily the pace of the game would increase and Brent Burns would trip up Jamie Benn who was charging into the Wild zone giving Dallas a power play with just 2:24 left in overtime.  Minnesota would call a timeout to talk things over.  Dallas’ power play went right to work as they moved it out to the point to Larsen for a quick point shot that was knocked down by Theodore and he would stop Ribeiro’s bid from point-blank range.  Dallas would not be denied as they worked a similar play as the puck went out to the point where Stephane Robidas flung a wrist shot that beat a well-screened Theodore to give Minnesota a 4-3 loss. 

Jose Theodore had 28 saves in the loss.  Theodore gave the Wild a chance to win this game, making several big stops on shots taken near his crease.  Defensively, it was a lack of discipline and a few breakdowns that proved to be most costly.  Burish’s goal in the 3rd was the result of a blown defensive assignment that gave him an uncontested chance from in front of the crease.  Brent Burns was not very good tonight defensively, and was flat footed most of the night but penalties also hurt the Wild as well as the Stars managed to score twice on the man advantage.  The Wild are a team that cannot afford to make things easier for their opponents by taking unnecessary penalties. 

Offensively, Minnesota has shown an ability to create some pressure at even strength which was not the case early in the season.  I must admit, Pierre-Marc Bouchard has shown some great chemistry with Martin Havlat who has been playing with tremendous desire as of late.  Having Kobasew back adds speed and a little more offense to the energy line and the Wild sorely need offense wherever they can get it.  On the other end of it, the Wild’s power play is certainly struggling.  It was slightly better at creating some offensive pressure as the team was taking its opportunities to shoot the puck, but still it is taking far too much time just entering the offensive zone where they often burn 1/2 of their power play just trying to get set up. 

This loss does hurt as much as the last one did.  The effort was clearly better and I never really felt as if the team had given up.  Sure, the team could have had better performances from guys like Brent Burns and Antti Miettinen who had some undisciplined penalties but everyone else was really playing like a desperate hockey team.  The team had a much better 2nd period and managed to battle back after a small 3rd period lapse.  It still wasn’t the full 60-minute effort the team’s coaches and management have been talking about but it is greatly improved from where it used to be.  I would not predict that Wild Head Coach Todd Richards will get fired during this latest lull in the action as Minnesota has 4 days off before its next game.  The Wild have lost their 5th straight but all the team can do is to try to forget about it and focus on beating Phoenix on Thursday.  So for the Wild, life has been hard as of late, but it doesn’t mean its over either. 

Wild Notes:

~ The Wild roster tonight is as follows:  Mikko Koivu, Andrew Brunette, Antti Miettinen, Kyle Brodziak, John Madden, Martin Havlat, Cal Clutterbuck, Matt Cullen, Chuck Kobasew, Brad Staubitz, Eric Nystrom, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Marek Zidlicky, Cam Barker, Greg Zanon, Jared Spurgeon, Nick Schultz and Brent Burns.  Niklas Backstrom backed up Jose Theodore.  Patrick O’Sullivan, Justin Falk and Clayton Stoner were the healthy scratches.  Guillaume Latendresse is still busy recovering from groin and sports hernia surgery he received a few weeks ago. 

~ The 3 Stars of the Game as selected by Dallasstars.com were: 1st Star Steve Ott, 2nd Star Adam Burish, 3rd Star Stephane Robidas

~ Attendance at tonight’s game was 14,344 at American Airlines Arena.  I highly doubt there was that many at the game.  

~ The Houston Aeros lost Friday night, 2-1 to the Rockford Ice Hogs after have defeated them the night before.  The Aeros jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead on a pretty goal in transition by Robbie Earl after a nice pass from Warren Peters.  In what was a very rough game with 6 roughing majors, 2 fighting majors and 2 game misconducts and numerous other penalties the Aeros just couldn’t stave off the veteran laden Ice Hogs attack as goals by Ivan Vishnevskiy and former Golden Gophers star Ryan Potulny‘s tally with just over 5 minutes left to play in the 2nd period would hold up as the game winner.  Matthew Hackett cannot be blamed for the outcome having stopped 27 of 29 in the losing effort. 

~ The Aeros would redeem themselves Saturday night in a game eerie for many reasons against its new in-state rival the Texas Stars.  The Aeros would get on the scoreboard first as Elk River, Minnesota’s Nate Prosser scored on the power play to go up 1-0 at the end of 1 period of play.  Houston would add to its lead as Colton Gillies found the back of the net after a nice pass by Casey Wellman.  The Stars would answer back with two goals of their own as Travis Morin and Colten Scevior managed to beat Anton Khudobin to tie the game at 2-2 just a 1:13 into the 3rd period.  The Aeros would respond with another goal as Warren Peters took a pass from Brandon Buck to re-take the lead 3-2.  The Stars would play the role of the Wild, scoring late in the 3rd as Cody Chupp found the twine behind Khudobin to tie the game to send it to overtime.  In overtime, the Aeros would draw a high sticking penalty on Fabian Brunnstrom and Houston would make the Stars play for their lack of discipline.  On the man advantage, the Aeros would bury the game winner after a point shot by Marco Scandella was stopped by Richard Backman but as the puck bounced aroun the crease the puck would gathered up by Jean-Michel Daoust who dished it over to Cody Almond who slammed it home to give Houston a 4-3 overtime victory.  Khudobin made 21 saves in the victory. 

Wild Prospect Report:

LW – Brett Bulmer ~ Kelowna Rockets (WHL)

2010-11 Stats:  26GP  10G 8A = 18pts  46 PIM’s -10

Brett Bulmer is starting to heat up offensively, after scoring twice in a losing effort as the Rockets fell 3-2 to the Chilliwack Bruins. 

LW – Kris Foucault ~ Calgary Hitmen (WHL)

2010-11 Stats:  23GP  9G 9A = 18pts  23 PIM’s  -5

Kris Foucault has also been playing better as of late, being more assertive offensively as he tallied a goal and an assist in a 4-3 Hitmen win over the Vancouver Giants. 

WCHA Men’s Hockey Report:

St. Cloud State vs. North Dakota (Series 2-0 for ND) – In game 1, the Huskies would jump out to a 1-0 lead off a goal by Hermantown, Minnesota’s Drew Leblanc but the Fighting Sioux would rally back with a goal in the 2nd and two more in the 3rd period to roll to a 3-1 victory.  Senior Matt Frattin continues his torrid start scoring his 14th goal of the season while Brad Malone added two goals in the North Dakota game 1 victory.  Game 2 was a lot more one sided as the Fighting Sioux jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the first on goals from Evan Trupp, Eau Claire, Wisconsin’s Derrick LaPoint, Brent Davidson, Frattin, and Corban Knight.  The 2nd period would get a little rough, but the Fighting Sioux would carry their 5-goal lead going into the 3rd.  St. Cloud finally managed to solve Aaron Dell when Mitch MacMillan found the back of the net to cut the North Dakota lead to four, but the Sioux would answer with another goal as Mario Lamoreaux scored his first of the season.  The Huskies added one more goal late, but it did little to soften the 6-2 rout and series sweep by North Dakota. 

Omaha-Nebraska vs. Bemidji State (Series 2-0 for BSU) – In perhaps the surprise game of Friday night, the Bemidji State Beavers who are at the bottom of the WCHA standings managed to defeat the red hot Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks 3-0.  Fittingly, the first Beavers’ goal came from an unlikely source as Jake Areshenko made it 1-0 in the 1st period.  The next two Beaver tallies came from far more likely sources in Ian Lowe and Emil Billberg lighting the lamp while Dan Bakala had 23 saves in the shutout.  In game two, the Mavericks got on the scoreboard first when Johnnie Seafross lit the lamp just prior to the halfway point of the first and little did Dean Blais‘ squad know that would be the last time they would score as the Beavers responded with 3 goals by Lowe, Aaron MacLeod and Verona, Wisconsin’s Jordan George split over the next two periods to earn the victory and a series sweep against Nebraska-Omaha which has more than held its own against many of the other teams in the WCHA.  Bakala was again brilliant for Bemidji State, making 39 saves in the victory. 

Minnesota vs. Minnesota State (Series 2-0 for MSU) – There is no doubt about it, there is a strong rivalry between the Gophers and Minnesota State Mavericks and the game always seems to bring out the best and at times worst in both teams.  The Mavericks jumped out to a 1-0 lead on a goal by Ben Youds, but the Gophers answered back as Florida Panthers’ 1st rounder Nick Bjugstad scored his 2nd collegiate goal.  However the Mavericks would re-take the lead late in the 1st on a goal by former St. Paul Johnson star Michael Dorr.  The Mavericks extended their lead in the 2nd period on a goal by Adam Mueller, which really put Minnesota in a tough spot.  The Gophers would cut the lead to one on a blast by Nick Larson, but it wasn’t enough as Phil Cook shut the door making 33 saves to give Minnesota State the upset in game 1.  Atlanta Thrashers’ prospect Alex Kangas had 21 saves in the loss.  Game 2 would have a much slower approach as the first period would end with both teams scoreless at the end of one.  The Mavericks would finally find the back of the net behind Kent Patterson on the power play as Rylan Galiardi poked home a rebound to give Minnesota State a 1-0 lead going into the 3rd.  Kurt Davis would find the twine almost mid-way through the 3rd to give Minnesota State a 2-0 lead until Cade Fairchild scored about a minute later on the man advantage to cut the lead back to one but it wasn’t meant to be.  The Gophers poured it on in the 3rd, outshooting the Mavericks 23 to 10 but they couldn’t beat Phil Cook and Minnesota State earned a 2-1 win an a series sweep of in-state rival Minnesota.    

Denver vs. University of Minnesota-Duluth (Series split 1-1) – Easily the highest profile showdown of the night was between the Denver University Pioneers and the UMD Bulldogs.  Wild prospect Jason Zucker continues his red-hot freshman season, scoring just 54 seconds into the game, and Anthony Maiani added another to give the Pioneers an early 1-0 lead going into the 2nd period.  Zucker would again find the twine early to start the 2nd period, but it was at this point that the Bulldogs would rally back with 3 goals of its own from Jack Connolly, Wade Bergman, and Mike Connolly to have the game knotted at three apiece to start the 3rd period.  With just under 5 minutes left in the 3rd period, Kyle Schmidt scored for the Bulldogs to give them a 4-3 lead but their good feelings would be short-lived as Zucker rifled a shot by Kenny Reiter to complete the hat trick and send the game to overtime.  In overtime it was Drew Shore lighting the lamp for the 13th time this season, with Zucker collecting an assist as the Pioneers’ Sam Brittain stopped 29 shots in a 5-4 OT thriller.  In game two, both teams were showing good poise early and it was freshman phenom Justin Faulk blistering a slapper by Brittain to lift UMD to a 1-0 lead.   In the 2nd period Mike Connolly beat Sam Brittain shorthanded to extend the lead to 2-0.  The Pioneers tried to rally back as Maiani scored on the power play in the 3rd period but the Bulldogs and Reiter would hold off Denver’s assault to win 2-1 and earn a series split. 

Wisconsin vs. Alaska-Anchorage (Series 1-0 for A-A) – After a fairly quiet and scoreless first period the Seawolves gave their home crowd something to cheer about as Craig Parkinson scored shorthanded to give Alaska-Anchorage a 1-0 lead.  Wisconsin would be better on the power play the 2nd time as leading goal scorer Jordy Murray fired a shot by Rob Gunderson to tie the game at 1-1.  The Seawolves would stun the Badgers late in the 3rd as Tommy Grant scored with just 9 seconds left in regulation to earn the 2-1 victory. 

Colorado College vs. Michigan Tech (Series 2-0 for CC) – The Colorado College Tigers would get out to a 1-0 lead in the 1st period on a goal by Andrew Hamburg.  The Tigers would add another early in the 3rd when Rylan Schwartz found the twine behind Joe Howe, but Michigan Tech would strike back as Jacob Johnstone and Milos Gordic scored two goals just 40 seconds apart to tie the game at 2-2.  Rylan Schwartz would score another with just 9 seconds left in the 2nd period to give the Tigers a 3-2 lead going into the 3rd.  Hamburg would score again in the 3rd to extend the lead to two, while Ryan Furne cut the lead back to one to make it 4-3 with just 12 minutes left in the 3rd.  It was at this point the wheels would come off for hometown Huskies, as Colorado College scored 3 more times on goals from Cloquet’s Tyler Johnson, Ryan Lowery and Nick Dineen to produce a 7-3 blowout.  St. Louis Blues’ 1st rounder had Jaden Schwartz had 4 assists in the victory.  Game two was equally one sided as the Colorado College Tigers had to just lie in wait one period before turning it on in the 2nd and 3rd period to blitz the Huskies for 5 goals to earn a 5-0 victory and series sweep.  Jaden Schwartz had 2 goals and an assist to stay amongst the top freshman forwards in the nation and Hopkins, Minnesota’s Archie Skalbeck fired home two goals himself in the rout. 

About Derek Felska

I am a lifelong hockey fan from Minnesota who loves and appreciates the game at all levels. I have been blogging about the Minnesota Wild since 2005. I cover just about every aspect of the organization from the team itself, its coaches, its management, its broadcast as well as its AHL affiliate the Iowa Wild and the club's pool of prospects. In addition to the NHL I occasionally take the time to cover college and high school hockey as well. We are the State of Hockey and I want to make this blog informative and objective from the eyes of a fan. I am a fan of the Minnesota Wild, but I am no homer. I hope what you read reflects this approach!