DALLAS – Tobias Stephan waited more than a year to make up for a heartbreaking loss.
Stephan made 19 saves to earn his first NHL win, Brenden Morrow scored 13 seconds into the game, and the Dallas Stars handed Minnesota its first regulation loss, beating the Wild 4-2 Wednesday night. The 24-year-old goalie made an emergency start against Chicago on Oct. 13, 2007, and took a shutout into the final moments. The Blackhawks had a 6-on-3 skating advantage and scored with 1.5 seconds remaining to force overtime.
Chicago eventually won, and Tobias spent the remainder of the 2007-08 season in the minors before making his second career start.
“It’s a great feeling,” said Stephan, who filled in for the slumping Marty Turco. “It was really a good game by the team. That really helped me out.”
Turco has a 4.26 goals against average and gave up six goals in a loss to Washington on Saturday night. Stars coach Dave Tippett elected to sit the three-time all-star and give Stephan his first start of the season.
“That’s my job,” Stephan said. “That’s why I came here to play. I just try to make the best of it. Stay focused and be ready when called upon.”
Dallas got off to a fast start when Minnesota goalie Niklas Backstrom couldn’t clear the puck in the opening moments. Off an assist from Mike Ribeiro, Morrow scored from the right circle.
Marc-Andre Bergeron and Andrew Brunette had power-play goals for the Wild (6-1-1), who had allowed just 14 goals coming into the game.
“We didn’t play terrible,” Brunette said. “I think we can rebound and get back to the way we’ve been playing.”
Steve Ott and Brad Richards each had goals in the first, and Sean Avery had two assists for the Stars. Matt Niskanen added a power-play goal, the first allowed by the Wild after killing 24 straight penalties to start the season.
The Stars jumped out to a 3-1 lead after the first, forcing out Backstrom out in favour of backup Josh Harding.
Backstrom, who entered with a 1.98 goals-against average, stopped 10 of 13 shots. He had played every minute this season before Harding came on and made 19 saves on 20 shots.
“We’ve had better nights,” Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire said. “We gave them two gifts right from the start. They’re a good team. They don’t give you a lot.”
The Stars have yielded an NHL-high 40 goals. Their defence tightened in front of Stephan after Bergeron’s goal at 6:13 of the first.
Minnesota, which is 0-7-2 in Dallas since 2003, had only 11 shots in the final two periods.
“There are some things we can grab onto,” Tippett said. “It was one of the better games from our defensive corps. They made some solid plays and cleared the front of the net. So there were steps in the right direction.”
Dallas took the lead for good at 12:45 when Ott jammed a loose puck past Backstrom, who was 11-0-1 in his last 12 games. Richards and Avery earned assists.
Richards capped the first period with his third goal of the season at 15:39.
That was more than enough support for Stephan, who was jittery early. The first time Stephan handled the puck behind the net, he stumbled and fell.
He settled down after that. Brunette’s goal in the third went in off the back of Dallas defenceman Mark Fistric’s leg.
“I was nervous,” Stephan said. “But I think it helps me out. I look at it as a positive thing.”
Notes: Minnesota RW Marian Gaborik missed his sixth straight game due to an unspecified lower body injury. … Ott (groin) had missed three games. … Minnesota RW Antti Miettinen, who signed with the Wild as a free agent after playing in Dallas last season, had an assist in his first game against his former team.