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Wild staves off furious Stars rally for a 5-4 win

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An early 4-0 first period lead was erased, only to have Jason Zucker net the game-winner.

NHL: Minnesota Wild at Dallas Stars Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Texas is an open-carry state. The Minnesota Wild might as well be a crack shots too. It didn’t take long for the Wild to jump on Dallas starting goaltender Antti Niemi. Mikko Koivu scored his 13th goal of the season when he nursed a Jason Zucker rebound off Niemi back to the net and Johnny Oduya swept the puck into the net.

One shot. One goal.

Two minutes and 41 seconds later, Eric Staal slipped one through Niemi’s five-hole. Charlie Coyle tipped a puck to Staal in the neutral zone to spring the Thunder Bay, Ontario native on a 2-on-1 with Zach Parise.

Two shots. Two Goals.

At the three minute mark, Matt Dumba would end Niemi’s evening when he jumped up into the play after Zucker forced a turnover in the neutral zone. Dumba crossed the blue line and placed the puck up near the expensive liquor. Niemi never had a chance.

Three goals. Three shots.

The Wild took advantage of the Stars brutal neutral zone play. They shut down the Dallas speed and got chances in transition. When Kari Lehtonen made his first save of the game, the Stars faithful let out a loud, vociferous Bronx cheer. The 4th line got into the action when a lob pass to neutral is picked up by Jordan Schroeder. Schroeder crossed the line with Chris Stewart and placed a back hand pass to Stewart crashing the net for the 4th goal of the game and an early 4-0 lead for the Wild.

Then Jonas Brodin took a penalty. The Wild penalty kill stood strong, but that sustained pressure was the first good look the Stars got in the Wild zone. Things got a little loose near the end of the period and Antoine Roussel scored on a 4-on-2 the other way. The goal came with 6.5 seconds remaining in the period, and for as bad as the period was for the Stars, they were only down by three goals with 40 minutes left to play.

The Stars didn’t waste time to get back into the game. Jiri Hudler scored when the Wild’s 4th line got a little lackadaisical in the neutral zone. The puck found Devin Shore, who got past Ryan Suter stuck on the boards, and he passed it to Hudler to make is 4-2 just 2:20 into the period. Now only two goals down, the Stars came with a big push. Darcy Kuemper has given up big leads to the Stars before. November 28th, 2015 Kuemper was spot a 3-0 lead at home versus the Stars. The Stars scored three goals in the third period to tie the game and Tyler Seguin won it in overtime. In fact, Minnesota had early leads against the Stars three times last season only to see it erased by the high-powered Stars.

Couple all that with Kuemper’s 3.21 GAA for the season and Kuemper surrendering three or more goals in four of his last five starts, the Stars were never out of the game. Tyler Seguin would cut the Wild lead to one when a shot from Jamie Benn caromed back out into the slot, and three Wild defensemen lost sight of the puck and couldn’t beat Seguin to the puck.

The Wild had two power plays in the second period and had decent looks on both of them with four shots on goal between the two man-advantages. Minnesota killed off a huge late period penalty to keep the score 4-3 after 40 minutes.

Kuemper survived a Lauri Korpikoski shot off the post. Stars survived a 42 second 5-on-3 advantage for Minnesota. In fact, when Patrick Eaves and Devin Shore were in the box, a total of zero shots got through to the Dallas goaltender. The Wild got just one shot on goal after the first penalty expired. The physicality picked up. Stephen Johns stepped up and put Nino Niederreiter on his back. This after Matt Dumba put Roussel on his rear.

A tripping call to Eric Staal put the Wild short-handed. John Klingberg brought the Stars all the way back to tie the game. His shot bounced through a couple Wild players before entering the net. Jason Zucker would re-gain the one goal lead for Minnesota when Mikael Granlund made a heck of a play to steal the puck in the Stars’ zone. He centered the puck to Zucker, who was crashing the net. Lehtonen deflected the pass up and the puck went off Zucker’s face before dropping into the net and the cage coming of its moorings.

Minnesota ultimately held on for the final seven minutes and 45 seconds, including a great forecheck within the final two minutes to keep Lehtonen in the Dallas net. Kuemper made one more save and the skaters in front of him took care of the rest as the Wild will head to Chicago first place in the Central Division.

This game was a roller coaster. time to re-group and head to Chicago to face the Blackhawks.