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Updated: February 24th, 2012 11:21pm
Stars baffle flustered Wild as winless streak in Dallas hits 16 games

Stars baffle flustered Wild as winless streak in Dallas hits 16 games

by Nate Sandell
1500ESPN.com
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The city of Dallas continues to hold no joy for the Minnesota Wild.

Even the momentum gained from back-to-back victories could not help them reverse their losing woes in Texas.

Backed by a sound performance by goaltender Kari Lehtonen, the Dallas Stars raced to a 4-1 win on Friday to deliver the Wild their 16th straight defeat at the American Airlines Center -- the NHL's longest current losing streak in the same arena.

"Our execution was very bad tonight," coach Mike Yeo told reporters after the game. "Everything seemed to be a broken play."

Scoring chances were there for the out-of-sync Wild, but Lehtonen denied 28 of the 29 shots he faced.

Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom wasn't as lucky. Nearly flawless in his last two starts, he faltered in the wake of several well-timed attempts from the Stars. Tom Wandell, Loui Eriksson and Eric Nystrom each registered goals as Dallas gathered a 3-0 lead less than 24 minutes into the game.

Backstrom, who entered Friday having stopped 89 of the combined 91 shots he faced in wins against Boston and Florida, was eventually pulled after the Stars' third goal in favor of rookie Matt Hackett.

Winger Devin Setoguchi spoiled Lehtonen's shutout with his 15th goal of the year in the third period, though it did nothing to soften Dallas' command. As the Wild remained flustered and a step behind, the Stars stretched the score to 4-1 on an empty net goal before the final buzzer.

The skinny

Though winless in Dallas since 2003, the Wild entered Friday confident an end to the drought was near.

That upbeat outlook took an early hit when Wandell's first shot on net trickled back to him, allowing the Dallas center to knock a goal past Backstrom before the midpoint of the first period.

The Wild's struggles to match Dallas' tempo were made worse eight minutes later. Loui Eriksson handled a feed from teammate Michael Ryder and took his time in front of Backstrom until he flipped the puck up and into the net.

With the game already getting out of hand, a quick response was needed from the Wild but it never came. The Stars pushed the deficit to 3-0 four minutes into the second period off a sneaky goal from Eric Nystrom, who scored in front of the net despite being flanked by a defenseman.

Hackett relieved Backstrom, making his first appearance since he was recalled from the Houston Aeros (AHL) Thursday. The rookie goalie went unblemished in the 36 minutes he played. However, it was to no avail.

The damage to the Wild's psyche had been done. They out-shot Dallas 21-13 in the final two periods, but Setoguchi's goal in the third stood alone.

Wandell further buried the Wild with his second goal on a late empty netter.

Numbers game

0-5-3: Backstrom's career record at the American Airlines Center.

60-30: Score by which the Wild have been outscored by Dallas during their 16-game skid in the Lone Star state.

10: Saves made by Hackett in his fourth career appearance, setting his save percentage at .979 (94-of-96).

Health watch

Captain Mikko Koivu, who has missed four consecutive games, remains out with an undisclosed injury. He did not make the two-game road trip.

Scoring summary

First period

• Dallas -- Tom Wandell (5), assisted by Adam Burish (9) and Trevor Daley (16), 8:48. Stars 1, Wild 0

• Dallas -- Loui Eriksson (20), assisted Michael Ryder (21) and Mike Ribeiro (32), 17:40. Stars 2, Wild 0

Second period

•Dallas -- Eric Nystrom (16), assisted by Radek Dvorak (17) and Vernon Fiddler (12), 3:53. Stars 3, Wild 0

Third period

• Wild -- Devin Setoguchi (15) on the power play, assisted by Dany Heatley (26) and Jared Spurgeon (18), 12:43. Stars 3, Wild 1

• Dallas -- Tom Wandell (6) on an empty net, assisted by Steve Ott (19) and Stephane Robidas (14), 19:07. Stars 4, Wild 1

Three stars

1. Kari Lehtonen
2. Eric Nystrom
3. Tom Wandell

Up next

The Wild (27-25-9) return to the Twin Cities for a two-game homestand, starting with a chance to clinch the season-series with the San Jose Sharks on Sunday (5 p.m. FSN). After falling to the Sharks early in the season, the Wild have wrested away two straight wins from the Pacific Division's first place team (32-20-7).

Nate Sandell is a contributor to 1500ESPN.com.
Email Nate | @nsandell
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