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Minnesota beats Stars 3-1 despite not being on top of their game

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NHL: Dallas Stars at Minnesota Wild Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

If you are a fan of the Dallas Stars, this game was a tough watch. The Stars were reeling on a road trip through the Central Division. They are nose-diving out of the playoffs. And while were beating on a team while their down, their $10 million goaltender tandem is a the main cog to the Stars in the top two of worst teams in the league in goals given up per game.

The frustration was palpable for Dallas’ star players. Jamie Benn broke his stick in half in retaliation on Charlie Coyle in the third period even. That was the frustration boiling over after the Wild, who were not on the top of their game, with Darcy Kuemper in net, weren’t backing down from the chippiness (sometimes even instigating it) and turning away shot after shot hurled at the Minnesota net.

The first period saw the Stars jump out to an early 8-1 shot advantage. The Wild looked slow, bottled up, and couldn’t mount anything resembling a forecheck. The few bright sides were Kuemper looking strong in net, and the fourth line getting some great chances off the rush. Chris Stewart pitched a puck ahead for Jordan Schroeder who rang one off the cross bar.

Minnesota got a power play late in the first period when Curtis McKenzie was called for goaltender interference. The power play was really the first chance the WIld had to get decent zone time. But it was leaving much to be desired. So much so that I tweeted:

There was 3.8 seconds remaining in the period and a faceoff coming in the Stars end. Mikko Koivu won a faceoff cleanly back to Jason Pominville, who sent the puck across for Ryan Suter. The resulting play took a total of three seconds to make, and Suter’s one-timer beat Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen with 00.8 seconds on the clock.

The second period was better for the Wild, in a sense that the shots for the Stars were kept to the outside. It still didn’t stop the Wild for giving up 13 shots on goal to the Minnesota’s six in the period. Koivu ended up taking a holding minor against Cody Eakin. The Wild were able to kill off the Koivu minor and as he stepped back on the ice, Erik Haula head-manned a pass to Koivu at the Stars line. Haula drove towards the net, but Koivu instead decided to not force a pass to Haula, but instead dropped the puck to Jordan Schroeder, who had a head of steam in to the zone. Schroeder drove deep into the zone and fed Haula, who was now camped out at the top of the crease, the puck for an easy slam-dunk goal.

The chippiness from either team started to show. With the Stars looking to get back into the game, Ryan Suter would tackle Jamie Benn as his goaltender covered for a faceoff. Nino Niederreiter did the same as he was having none of Antoine Roussel’s shenanigans. Cody Eakin would cut the 2-0 lead in half when he’d get a puck in the slot that bounced around a few bodies in front. Bruce Boudreau would choose to challenge the goal for goaltender interference as it did look like Patrick Eaves was in the crease. However, the referees deemed that he did not interfere with Kuemper and we had a good hockey goal.

Then the fireworks. Kuemper stood tall as the Stars really pushed for the equalizer. Christian Folin would rough up Roussel, who took a shot after the whistle blew for an offside infraction. With the teams playing 4-on-4, Erik Haula would find Jared Spurgeon all alone in front of Lehtonen. Spurgeon would go bar-down with a backhander to extend the lead back to two goal.

Charlie Coyle would end up colliding with Lehtonen behind the net which brought the ire of the Stars. Benn, foolishly took it out on Coyle’s arm and broke his stick with a cross check. Benn would join Coyle in the sin bin. Then Nino Niederreiter would send Patrick Sharp head over heels with a hit near the Stars’s blue line.

It appears that Niederreiter would avoid a hit by Radek Faksa, and tries to poke at the puck that’s on John Klingberg’s stick. He doesn’t see Sharp coming until the last minute and just braces for impact. Sharp goes flying into the air. Nino was ejected after being assessed a 5 minute major interference penalty and a game misconduct. A fracas ensued after the hit, and both Faksa and Haula would get sent to the dressing room early after they tussled and were assessed a misconduct penalty.

We will wait to see if the NHL’s Department of Player Safety will do anything with this one. It was a dangerous play, but in my clearly biased opinion, I think the circumstances were more of a freak occurrence than anything intentional.

The Wild will now play the Nashville Preadators on Saturday. The Predators have been holding their own, but not necessarily risen or fallen. The Blues have passed them up after the Blues had to fire their coach, and have since gone 6-1 since Mike Yeo took over. The Preds are just lucky the Jets and Avs are so terrible right now.