Stars put inept Wild in a box

  • Article by: MICHAEL FLOREK , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 22, 2014 - 6:49 AM

A continual march to the penalty box led to a drubbing.

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Wild defenseman Keith Ballard (2) won a faceoff against Dallas' Shawn Horcoff (10) in the Stars' 4-0 victory Tuesday night.

Photo: Tony Gutierrez, Associated Press

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– It took Wild coach Mike Yeo only 40 seconds to realize that his team might be in trouble on Tuesday night against the Dallas Stars.

“We won the opening faceoff then spent 40 seconds in our own zone,” Yeo said. “That’s a bad sign right there, that we weren’t ready to execute.”

The bad sign turned into an awful period that turned into what Yeo would later call a “game that goes in the garbage” as the Wild fell to the Stars 4-0 at American Airlines Center.

The Wild gave the Stars seven power plays while earning only three of its own. Dallas scored on two of its opportunities.

Shortly after the Stars’ opening-game pressure, Dallas forward Erik Cole skated around defenseman Marco Scandella for an abbreviated breakaway, but lost the puck. A minute later the Stars hit the post.

The Wild kept it scoreless through the first 13 minutes of the game, but the Dallas storm was brewing.

With just less than seven minutes left in the first, Vernon Fiddler’s shot bounced off a body in front and over Wild goalie Darcy Kuemper’s glove for the first goal of the game.

Three-and-half minutes later, Cole picked the far corner with a wrist shot from the faceoff dot and made the game 2-0 Stars, prompting Yeo to burn his timeout with 3:15 left in the first period.

By the end of the period the Stars held a two-goal lead and a 12-3 shot advantage.

“It’s a tough game when you’re chasing and get down 2-0 like we were early on,” Wild forward Kyle Brodziak said. “You feel like the rest of the game you’re just chasing the game. It’s a tough league to be doing that. Good teams know how to shut you down.”

The Stars are only 3-8-1 in January while Minnesota is 7-3, but the Stars were still good enough to hold the Wild scoreless. It’s the fourth time the Wild has been shut out this season. It had more penalty minutes, 23, than it did shots, 18, the latter marking the third-lowest output of the season.

Even when the Wild thought it had a good play, it ended badly. In the third period, after the Stars made it 3-0, the Wild earned a power play because of a roughing penalty from Stars defenseman Jordie Benn. Late in the power play, Stephane Veilleux brought the Wild the closest it came to scoring when he hit the post on a shot from the slot.

In the scrum that followed, the Stars lifted the puck out of the zone — just as Benn got out of the penalty box. As the puck bounced into the corner, Kuemper came out to play it. Benn got there first and missed slamming it home on the empty net, but a penalty shot was called. Kuemper threw his stick in attempt to block the puck.

On the penalty shot, Benn faked a shot, pulled the puck to his forehand and slid it past Kuemper to make it 4-0 and remove what little doubt was left in the game.

“If we had a good shift here or there, we couldn’t follow it up with another one,” Yeo said. “We were looking for things to do, but it’s hard to find somebody to bench and it’s hard to find somebody that was going, that we could keep getting them out there.

“We didn’t execute. We didn’t defend,’’ he added. “We were passengers. We were spectators the whole game.’’

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