One is the loneliest number: Stars blank Wild despite Hackett heroics
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ST. PAUL, Minn. - In all of the myriad changes that have come to hockey over the years, from new rules to better equipment to new arenas to an influx of European skaters that changed the way the game is played on many levels, one basic axiom handed down for generations remains the same:
If you want to win, you have to score a goal, at minimum once per game.
On Tuesday that Dallas Stars did that, and the Minnesota Wild, again, did not. The Wild fell to 0-2 on their current five-game homestand, losing 1-0 to the Stars on a third period goal by Jamie Benn.
It wasted a fine effort by Wild goalie Matt Hackett, who stopped all but that one of the 25 shots he faced, but did not get rewarded for the work.
"I guess it's a step up from last game," said Wild forward Devin Setoguchi, reflecting on the Wild's 4-3 loss to the Flames on Sunday. "Guys were working out there and that's a positive note. But you've got to score goals, especially when Hak plays that kind of game for us, makes some big stops."
You can argue that the Wild caught the Stars at the wrong time, as Dallas is playing its best hockey of the season currently, and is in the thick of the playoff race. Or, conversely, you can argue that this is the perfect time to play the Wild as well, as Minnesota remains mired in the offensive doldrums that have taken a hold of the team.
Despite the Wild's woes, Dallas coach Glen Gulutzan faced Yeo several times last season in the AHL, and knew this was the kind of game his team would have to win.
"We prepared for a game like this, especially coming in here and reading the comments of Mike," Gulutzan said. "We know how hard his team plays and how stingy they can be. He leaned on them a little in the last few days and we knew we were in for a hard-fought defensive battle. We're not discouraged by the one (goal), we're just glad we got it."
And on the flip side the Wild continued to be frustrated in a game where emotions boiled over a few times, and Dallas' lone goal came on a play where Setoguchi and Yeo claimed an uncalled hold sprung the Stars on a 3-on-2 break. The play ended with Benn chipping the puck into the upper corner of the net, past Hackett for the only offense they would need.
Yeo, sounding more and more resigned to the idea that he will be watching the NHL playoffs on TV, praised his team for a better effort.
"The guys played hard. They played the right way," he said. "They just couldn't make that one play to get that goal. We couldn't get that. But I give a lot of credit to Dallas. You can see why they've been as good as they have been lately because they just stick with their game. Every puck gets behind our defensemen. In a game like that you have to find a way to make a play."
With less than 10 seconds to play, and the Wild net empty, the team almost made a perfect passing play to tie the game. Matt Cullen passed behind the net to Devin Setoguchi, who spun and sent the puck to the top of the crease. Kyle Brodziak looked ready to knot the score, but Lehtonen stopped the puck somehow.
"One heck of a save, and the only thing I didn't like about it is (Lehtonen) looked behind him," said Stars coach Glen Gututzan. "But he had it squeezed in there tight. That gives a coach heart attacks, but that's just the kind of goaltending we've been getting."
• 1-1-1: The Wild's record in the last three games, all of them decided by one goal.
• 10: Number of times in the last 11 games that the Wild have allowed the first goal.
• 10-0-1: The Stars' record in their last 11 games.
• 0: Goals allowed by Kari Lehtonen in his last two starts.
Potentially scary moment in the second period when Matt Cullen was felled by a knee-on-knee check from Brenden Morrow near the Dallas net. Cullen was helped from the ice and did not return in the second, fueling some Twitter speculation that things could be bad. But Cullen returned and played the third period, albeit without recording a shot on goal.
Defenseman Steven Kampfer left the game for a time in the third period after taking an inadvertent stick to the face, but he too returned for the team's final frantic push to tie.
Stars - Jamie Benn 21 (Morrow), 3:46
Shots: Wild 8-9-8-25; Stars 10-9-6-25. Saves: Wild, Matt Hackett (24-25); Stars, Kari Lehtonen (25-25). Power plays: Wild 0-for-4, Stars 0-2.
1. Kari Lehtonen
2. Matt Hackett
3. Marco Scandella
In what may be the craziest day in the history of downtown St. Paul, the Wild will host the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday afternoon - a day that also happens to be St. Partick's Day. Later that night, the Xcel Energy Center will also be home to the WCHA Final Five championship game. Get there early if you want a place to park.