Overheard in the Dallas Stars’ locker room before the game, here was center Tyler Seguin’s assessment of facing the Wild: “Both teams wear green.”
He’s not wrong.
Turns out, there were a few more differences than similarities Wednesday when the Wild turned in a confident 4-2 victory at Xcel Energy Center in front of an announced crowd of 19,107. That’s a bit of a twist, considering the exact tint of Dallas’ color is “victory” green.
The Wild improved to 19-15-3 while the Stars fell to 20-15-3 — just two points ahead of Minnesota — in the stacked Central Division.
“Well, I mean, I didn’t want to talk about it being a huge game, but it was a huge game,” Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said. “We called it the start of the second half [of the season]. So you get a chance to reset. And I likened it this morning to a game of golf here. You play the first nine holes and probably are not as happy as you’d like to be. But you can always make it up on the back nine. I mean, it was only one game, but it was a good divisional start.”
Seguin started off his team’s scoring with 12 minutes, 37 seconds remaining in the first period, redirecting defenseman Esa Lindell’s shot past Wild goaltender Alex Stalock. Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon tied the score with less than a minute to go in the period, burying a rebound from winger Charlie Coyle’s initial shot.
While it took both teams most of that first period to shake off their three-day holiday break, the action picked up in the second 20 minutes. On an odd-man rush, Wild center Eric Staal scored at 5:12 thanks to an inadvertent assist from Stars defenseman Greg Pateryn. Wild defenseman Matt Dumba then tried to draw unlucky Pateryn into the celebration, which did not go over well.
“Oh, yeah, I was not paying attention, but I saw a couple fists coming in,” winger Tyler Ennis said of Dumba’s move. “But, no, it was a good goal and a great game.”
Stars winger Mattias Janmark scored 10 seconds into a power-play about halfway through the second period when a wide shot from Seguin bounced off the boards and right to him. But the Wild returned the favor with a 10-second power-play goal of its own at 13:08 by winger Mikael Granlund, making it 3-2 Wild.
Spurgeon looked to have scored his second goal of the night with a wraparound buzzer-beater, but the officials ruled that time had expired.
The third period was scoreless until Wild winger Jason Zucker got an empty-net goal in the last minute.
Before the game, Dallas coach Ken Hitchcock said it would be interesting to see how his team responded to a weird day of travel after the time off as well as a different take on the morning skate and team meetings because of it.
He also worried about how his team would emotionally connect after the break, especially since he said there is “no gray area” to the Stars, as they either play exactly like they should or are completely hapless. Wednesday, it was the latter.
“It was our poorest effort by a mile,” Hitchcock said. “We were light everywhere. Light on the puck. Light around our net. Light around their net. This looked like the way we played a month and a half ago.”
For the Wild, it was the opposite.
“You could tell we had a bit more confidence tonight,” Spurgeon said. “Guys were handling the puck, and I thought all lines were going as well. Everyone was clicking, and there wasn’t one person that wasn’t doing the job they were supposed to.
“We know the position we’re in and how big the second half is for us,” Spurgeon said. “We’re going to have to win a lot of games for the playoff push, and that’s what we’re trying to start off with right now.”