DALLAS – The Dallas Stars used a balanced offence to cool off the Minnesota Wild.
Jamie Benn, Ray Whitney and Cody Eakin each had a goal and an assist to help lead the Stars to a 5-3 victory and end the Wild’s seven-game winning streak on Friday.
Erik Cole and Tomas Vincour also scored for Dallas, which moved within one point of the Western Conference’s final playoff spot. Jaromir Jagr also earned his 1,000th career NHL assist.
After losing to the Wild on Monday at home, the Stars regrouped and rebounded with a strong effort, scoring three third-period goals—two on power plays—to earn the victory.
“It was real big for us, we needed the points to claw our way into that top eight,” Dallas coach Glen Gulutzan said. “I thought we were more focused and determined to play a direct game from the beginning.
“I just think we played with more grit. We capitalized on our power plays and those were the things that we didn’t do (Monday) in the third.”
Kari Lehtonen, who gave up six goals on 41 shots Monday, made 30 saves.
“We played a lot better,” Lehtonen said. “It was a big turnaround. From my perspective, we were a lot better team and it was a lot easier for me.”
Devin Setoguchi, Jared Spurgeon and Torrey Mitchell scored for Minnesota, which also had its five-game road winning streak end.
“Let’s be honest here, that was a team that sat here and practiced and got ready for us,” Wild coach Mike Yeo said. “We knew that we were going to face their best game tonight. For many parts of the game, we were doing a lot of good things and we gave ourselves a chance. But in the end, we didn’t get ‘er done.”
Matt Hackett made his season debut for the Wild after getting recalled from AHL Houston on Friday, giving Niklas Backstrom a rest after 12 straight starts. Hackett stopped 28 shots.
The Stars, in the third game of a season-long five-game homestand, squandered a 2-0 first-period lead and entered the third period tied 2-2.
But Cole restored their lead at 1:02 of the third, beating a screened Hackett from the slot with a snap shot for his sixth goal of the season.
Simultaneous penalties to Mikko Koivu and Ryan Suter at the 2:00 mark gave Dallas a 5-on-3 power play for a full two minutes, but they needed just 10 seconds to capitalize.
A pretty passing play from Jagr down low to Whitney, across the crease to Benn for a point-blank one-timer made it 4-2.
The goal was Benn’s seventh, but also was Jagr’s 1,000th NHL assist. He became the 12th player—and first European—to reach that milestone.
“When I started, I never thought about any assists and points, I was happy to be able to play (in the NHL),” said Jagr, who began his NHL career in 1990, three years before the Minnesota North Stars moved to Dallas.
“When I came here, I didn’t think I’d have a chance to play here, the league was too strong and too tough for me. I kept working hard and I’ve had so many good players around me, I really was pretty lucky.”
The Stars made it 5-2 at 12:40 on Eakin’s sixth of the season on another power play. Hackett got a piece of Derek Roy’s backhand from the slot, with the puck trickling into the crease behind him, where Eakin poked it home.
“We really needed it,” Gulutzan said of the power play, which was 3 for 6 overall.
“I thought Ray Whitney made a great play on the 5-on-3. I thought we shot more and we outworked them and we needed to do that.”
Mitchell closed out the scoring with 59.3 seconds to go, lifting a backhand from in front over Lehtonen’s shoulder for his fourth of the season.
“After the second period, it’s 2-2, it’s anyone’s game coming into the third,” Setoguchi said. “We had a little turnover there and it costs us a goal early on. I don’t know what happened, somehow we ended up 5-on-3 there. That’s tough when they score bang-bang like that.”
Lehtonen came out for 2:32 during the third period for equipment repair. Richard Bachman came in to replace him.
“My skate lace broke and the skate was coming off,” Lehtonen said. “It takes a lot of time when you’re a goalie. You have to take the pad off. It’s never happened to me before, I don’t know how it happened, but it only took a little while.”
Dallas had a fast start and jumped on top 1-0 just 4:14 into the opening period on a power play.
Benn won a faceoff in the Wild zone, pulling the puck back to the high slot, where Whitney drilled a one-timer that beat Hackett low to the stick side for his sixth goal of the season.
The Stars made it 2-0 at 7:31 on Vincour’s second of the season. Aaron Rome’s wrist shot from the left point was deflected in front by Reilly Smith and was stopped by Hackett.
Vincour pounced on the rebound and popped it home into the open side of the net.
Minnesota pulled within 2-1 at 18:48 on Setoguchi’s 12th goal of the season.
After Matt Cullen carried the puck from the right corner around the net and fed a backhand pass out front, Setoguchi fired a one-timer that beat Lehtonen just under the crossbar, knocking the water bottle off the top of the net.
The Wild tied it on Spurgeon’s fifth goal of the season at 15:56 of the second period, while on a power play. Lehtonen stopped Kyle Brodziak’s snap shot from the right faceoff circle, but the rebound came out to Spurgeon at the left of the crease for an open net.
NOTES: Dallas C Vernon Fiddler left the game 3:52 into the first period when he was hooked by Koivu and crashed into the Minnesota post, the play that earned the Stars a first power play. Gulutzan said Fiddler is day to day. … Gold medal-winning 1980 U.S. Olympic G Jim Craig was in attendance and received a standing ovation when shown on the video board. … The Stars honoured former C Mike Modano for being part of the club’s 20th anniversary all-time team. Modano, who joined the franchise while it was still the Minnesota North Stars back in 1989, owns virtually every offensive record and helped the Stars win the 1999 Stanley Cup.