DALLAS – At one point during the second period Friday, a forearm of Stars winger Jamie Benn connected with the mask of Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk.
Dubnyk fell backward into the crease and was slow to get up. While he was on his knees, he struggled to regain his position and his stick was off to the side of the net.
For a moment the Wild's season flashed before its eyes. But Dubnyk got up, stayed in the game and made sure the Wild did the same in a ridiculous second-period performance.
That second period buoyed the Wild to a 3-1 victory over the Stars, the Wild's second consecutive victory. Ryan Suter, returning to the arena where he fractured his ankle — ending his season last April — scored the winning goal at 12 minutes, 54 seconds of the third period when he fired a puck from behind the net that deflected off Stars defenseman Esa Lindell and into the net.
Dubnyk made 33 saves and had 24 during a frenetic second period that could have been much worse for the Wild.
"We count our blessings for sure," coach Bruce Boudreau said of Dubnyk's play.
"He kept us in that game," Suter said.
With the way Dubnyk was playing, it was going to take a remarkable shot to beat him. That's what happened 36 seconds into the third period when Jason Spezza deflected a shot from Miro Heiskanen under Dubnyk's right arm to give the Stars a 1-0 lead.
But the Wild was able to provide enough firepower to help him out.
At 9:37, defenseman Matt Dumba cleaned up a loose rebound in front of Stars goaltender Ben Bishop and a few minutes later Suter's improbable goal put the Wild ahead. To Suter, the shot took a fortunate bounce for the Wild off an unfortunate part of Lindell's body.
"It went right off his nut cup," Suter said. "I don't know what else to say. … I was actually trying to go off his shin pad because it's a little more bouncy. It worked out."
Zach Parise added an empty-net goal with one minute left.
The Wild allowed only one shot after Spezza's goal, a performance that seemed to surprise Boudreau.
"Hockey is a funny game," Boudreau said. "When they scored their goal it looked like we put it into another gear to me. We didn't give them anything after that. … I was really impressed. We got that feeling, especially after the second goal, to shut down and we didn't give them an opportunity to skate."
Dubnyk actually didn't have to do much at the start of the game. The Stars didn't get their first shot on goal until there was 8:39 left in the period. That changed in the second. Dubnyk made most of his stellar saves, including a gasp-inducing 2-on-1 stop of Mattias Janmark, after his collision with Benn.
Dubnyk didn't have an issue with Benn's aggressive play, he said, but had hoped officials wouldn't be so quick next time to say he was out of the crease and not call a penalty on Benn.
Dubnyk said the play resulted in a "stinger" down his neck.
"I've had it a few times before where your head kind of gets compressed down a little bit," Dubnyk said. "Just a little buzz from the top of your head down your back a little bit, but fortunately I've had that before so I know it goes away."
It went away quickly. If it hadn't, the Wild might not have won.